Momifuku! Erikae!

Momifuku of Ponto-cho on the day of her erikae
Momifuku of Ponto-cho on the day of her erikae

This photograph of the new geisha Momifuku was one of the last I made inside her okiya on the day of her erikae, February 18, 2016.

In the moments before this, Yoko-san, the wonderful woman who dresses Momifuku, made her final alterations to Momifuku's kimono and obi.

After that, the katsura-makers jumped in and combed Momifuku's katsura and straightened her hair ornaments one last time.

Momifuku then looked in the mirror, trying to get used to herself as a geiko.

When it was agreed that Momifuku looked just right, joyous energy filled the room, which was already quite full of geiko, maiko, and me, scrunched down in the corner and trying to be as inconspicuous as I could while all these events were transpiring in front of me.

Several of Momifuku's onesan moved in to make their own portraits of Ponto-cho's newest geiko, so it was time for me to put down my camera.

It took me a few seconds to stand up from the crouch I had been in for the past 30 minutes or so, and I saw the real Momifuku in front of me and her digital self in the LCD screen of her onesan's camera. I made an image and then receded into the background again.

I breathed a sigh of relief. The road to photographing Momfuku's erikae had been an arduous one, full of twists and turns.

When I first found out about Momifuku's debut back in December, I asked if I could photograph her inside the okiya. The first answer was no, but I could photograph her for a few hours just after her erikae if I wanted.

Getting the chance to photograph a geiko on the day of her erikae for any amount of time is a rare blessing as far as I am concerned, so I said yes.

I saw and photographed Momifuku twice in January, and I told her I would really, really like to photograph her erikae. She said she would ask on my behalf.

Momifuku is a very sincere and conscientious young woman, so I didn't doubt that she would ask. I did seriously doubt that her okasan would change her mind, though.

Then, about 10 days before Momifuku's erikae, I got the word. Be at the okiya at 9:30 a.m. on 2/18. I could photograph the erikae from start to finish.

Momifuku came through for me, and I hope I came through for her. I think I did, but I'll find out for certain when I show her what we made. As I've already told her, it was a privilege to be there. I hope you enjoy this glimpse, too!