Hey all I've been away for a while, but in this absence I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Japan. So, this is the beginning of a little series from that enchanting place.
It was an evening in Kyoto. I was there with quite a few of my friends and we were lucky enough to stumble upon a maiko (apprentice geisha). Actually, we stumbled upon two geishas (called "geiko" in Kyoto) before, but they didn't really want to get photographed. This one, however, failed to suppress a smile upon seeing our wish to photograph her, and in the end stopped for a second to let us take a picture. Then she smiled, and moved on her way
edit: it has been brought to my attention by our local maiko/geiko experts here that this might be a 'fake' maiko, an ordinary girl dressed as a maiko. Apparently there are salons who do that, and they do it very well, but they get some details wrong which can be a tell. For more details, read the comments below.
She's so beautiful, such an adorable story, too hehe. I'm jealous of your excursion, I was wondering recently if geisha were still in Japan or if that was more a thing of the past, but this made me so happy to see! I wonder if she hadn't been an apprentice long, and was thrilled that people thought her so beautiful they wanted a picture...?
Do you know if it's because they still get a lot of work there, or if it's more of... like a piece of history that's being held on to? Well, I've always had a dream to travel to Japan, so I'll certainly add Kyoto to le dream requirements.
Very lovely shot. But I think you may have been tricked into taking a picture of a tourist... You see she has the dangling ornaments that would be worn by a first year Maiko yet she has both of her lips painted which is the sign of a Maiko that is beyond that level. It still is a very pretty picture, but they are a tricky bunch XD
Yes, all of their traditions are extremely strict, from the style of their makeup, their hair, even the patterns on their kimono and obi and under robes are held to the highest of traditional importance. They would not make such a crushing mistake. It's likely that this lovely lady you captured an image of is a Henshin, a tourist dressed in the style of a geisha, though there are several tell tale signs, though slight and hard to see for people who have no limited knowledge on the traditions, they are absolute and easy to see for people who have studied the Geisha lifestyle. Henshin are extremely common and as I said, if one has no knowledge, they are easily mistaken as real geisha.
This is a really nice shot. :] It's nice to see some appeciation for geisha (even if this one here is just an apprentice!) because so many people still hold the assumption that geisha are prostitutes... D: I'm a huge fan of of the book Memoirs of a Geisha, and this shot reminded it of me instantly.
This is a beautiful shot! I love her expression, too - it's almost like she was fighting back a smile and yet at the same time she was trying so hard to look like the beautiful girl that she is and follow her proper order... simply fantastic range of emotions in her face.
Wow, thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a detailed way! I think you're pretty much spot on, she wanted to suppress her smile but it really felt as if she couldn't It was such a great moment to take a photo of her, wish I could get a similar chance sometime again...
Haha, you're welcome! :3 I know how frustrating it is sometimes to sift through many comments all saying the same things (such as: this is awesome! amazing! etc.), plus I like to actually talk to the artists. I don't see what's so wrong with actually appreciating art some time! XD
Well, it's nice to hear those kinds of comments too (better that than silence ), and I guess sometimes people are just experiencing a wow moment and want to share it. But yeah, much better to see that someone actually took the time to observe, think, and then give you their opinion. Those rare gems make dA the experience that it is
Besides, two-way communication beats one-way any day, and there's not much to respond to a "wow"
Exactly! xD I also make AMVs, and I am constantly stuck hearing people saying things like "wow!" and "amazing!" I sometimes just want people to actually SAY things so that I have something more to say than "thank you!" xD
I love the DOF on this, even if I wish it was a little deeper, but still.
A little info on Maiko and Geiko, it's likely this girl isn't one. She wears the red collar embroidered with white like a mid year Maiko, and both lips painted like mid year Maiko too, but only 1st years wear the long dangling hair pieces. Her kimono looks vintage, (in terms of style,) but her hair accessories are actually quite modern. And she has her hair styled, which is another plus. But it's likely she's a tourist who has gone to a 'Henshin' studio, a studio where tourists can pay to be dolled up like a Maiko or Geiko.
Dressing up as a Maiko is more popular, hence why many assume Maiko are more friendly, the Geiko you saw are likely real, in that they didn't stop and pose. (Depending on the time of day, towards the evening they often have engagements to attend at the Tea Houses, so often don't like to be bothered at that time.) A real Maiko would likely do the same, hurry on to their next engagement.
There are a couple of ways to figure out if she is the real deal. Real Maiko and Geiko will sometimes have their 'kago' with them, square boxes topped with fabric. This is the Geisha equivalent to a hand bag. Real Maiko and Geiko will always carry them on their left arm, like these Maiko here [link] and they're always full. Girls who go to henshin studios who aren't Geisha sometimes have a kago, but it's often empty.
Maiko and Geiko will always hold their kimono trains in their left hand also, as seen here, [link] Both women in this photo are Geiko, you can tell because they both wrap their obi's criss-cross style. The elder lady is a senior Geiko and the women in the full regalia is a junior Geiko. The oldest Geiko alive I think is in her 80's or 90's.
When posing for tourists in the street, Maiko and Geiko will always flip their right sleeve over their hands in a traditional pose like here. [link]
Once you get sucked into the Geisha world, it's hard to come out, lol. I've never been able to leave my state, I've never met any of them, but I know at least 10 of them by name, lol. The girl in your pic likely went to a henshin studio, but it was a good one because they styled her hair, often times they put put cheap wigs on them. But if she did all the things I explained, then she was likely the real deal, or very well informed. Sorry to be a pain, lol.
Wow... took a while to absorb all this! Don't apologize lol, thank you for the very detailed explanation on the culture!
Yeah, the two geikos we met a bit earlier I'm pretty sure are the real thing, because they hurried off with some Japanese serious looking ojisan (and were visibly annoyed with all the tourists wanting to take pictures of them).
I can't see the first two links (asks for a Yahoo login :S), only the third. Here's another pic of her with the kago, maybe that will help you make something more of her? [link]