Giving Belated Thanks

The cover of 100 Views of Maiko and Geiko
The cover of 100 Views of Maiko and Geiko

My first book, One Hundred Views of Maiko and Geiko, was released eight years ago at the beginning of December 2006, and it gave me many reasons to be thankful in the first few years after it was published. However, eight years is a pretty long time, and I haven't thought about the book much in recent years.

I thought its impact on my life was over, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find out this year that the book is still affecting me in positive ways even though it is no longer in the forefront of my mind. I might have almost forgotten about it, but a few in Kyoto have not. For that, I am even more thankful!

Back in April I was a guest speaker for a group of tourists from Sweden. I gave a brief lecture to them about maiko and geiko during dinner, and then we went to an ochaya in Kamishichiken afterwards where we were entertained by three geiko and two maiko.

I had never been to an ochaya in Kamishichiken before, so none of the geiko or maiko there knew me. As far as they were concerned, I was another tourist from Sweden. The maiko and geiko moved around the room greeting all the guests, and one young geiko asked me if I was Swedish. I told her in Japanese that I was not, that I was an American who lived in Kyoto, and I sometimes photographed geiko and maiko.

I have the app/e-book of One Hundred Views on my iPhone, so I showed the cover to the geiko. Her face suddenly lit up. "That's you?" she said. "That's your book? Really? I have that book! It's still on my bookshelf at home!" The ice between us suddenly broken, we had a nice conversation until she had to move on to the other guests.

I decided it would be interesting to photograph this geiko since she seemed so enthusiastic about my work, and I made inquiries the following week. Unfortunately, she was retiring at the end of April, so I had missed my chance. It was still flattering to know that she had purchased the book, though.

I had another chance in September, but this time with a tayuu, not a geiko. As long-time readers of my blog will know, I have had a few brief photographic encounters with tayuu, and I have been waiting for the right time to photograph one. A health problem over the summer convinced me that the time was now, so I started making arrangements with the help of my friend T-san, the owner of an ochaya.

Most of the time, T-san spoke to the tayuu's okasan, but he spoke to the tayuu herself one time. She told him that she knew who I was and had bought my book on geiko and maiko! She said she was looking forward to having me photograph her, which I did a few weeks later. I only had 30 minutes that first time, but I was able to get a lot accomplished in a short period because the ice was already broken. I didn't have to spend much time introducing myself or gaining the tayuu's confidence. One Hundred Views of Maiko and Geiko had already done that for me.

There have been a few other encounters like these, but I don't want to toot my own horn too much. That's not what I'm trying to say here. What I'm trying to say is that I have been genuinely surprised by this enthusiasm, and I am incredibly grateful for it. And so I would like to give thanks.

I always hoped that my first book would lead to my second and third books, but I never thought farther ahead than that. I never dreamed that it would be opening doors for me eight years on. If you are working on a project, I encourage you to get it out into the world. You never know who will see it and appreciate it!