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Portraits of a Geisha

Geishas are cultural icons in Japan. It’s an old-age tradition that’s diminishing nowadays as the country moves on to modern times. You can see them in Tokyo but there are only a handful of them. In Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital, they can be seen in Gion, a district where most of the traditional Japanese houses are well-preserved and where most of them are performing nightly.

There’s really no exact time to spot geishas on the street of Gion. Most tourists in the city would start walking around and wait patiently until one is in sight. The crowd will start waiting at five in the afternoon until nine in the evening. You will know when one is coming because cameras will be flashing and a commotion is hard to ignore.

Portraits of a Geisha

Portraits of a Geisha

People will be swarming around her while she continues to walk gracefully, despite wearing a high, thick wooden shoes that carry her lithe form. She doesn’t smile. She doesn’t even care about the flashes and cameras too close to her face. You’de be lucky if she looks back at you.

Portraits of a Geisha

Portraits of a Geisha

Geishas are traditional Japanese entertainers who are trained for years in the arts of performing, like dancing, playing musical instruments, serving teas, etc… Their elaborate costume, white make-up with bloody red lips are part of what and who they are as someone who is skilled in arts.

Portraits of a Geisha

Portraits of a Geisha

Before becoming a geisha, one has to be a maiko, an apprentice geisha. A maiko is paid half of what the geisha is receiving. Their world is as fascinating as the grand kimono they are wearing and as intricate as the accessories they are adorned with, from sole to crown. (I have a feeling that all of these women I photographed are maikos. None of them is a real geisha.)

Portraits of a Geisha

Portraits of a Geisha

While geishas are known to be as performing artist, there are also those who cater to the sexual needs of their male customers. That, according to a Japanese friend and wikipedia.

Portraits of a Geisha

Portraits of a Geisha

Nowadays, getting into one of the houses where geishas perform is expensive. That’s why I never had the chance to get inside. I can only imagine what’s happening inside thinking about the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha.

Portraits of a Geisha

Portraits of a Geisha

It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings. She entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret.

-Memoirs of a Geisha–

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5 Responses to “Portraits of a Geisha”

  1. Shintaro
    March 10, 2014 at 9:09 AM #

    These are certainly maikos. Geishas have a different aura and you can FEEL it once you see them.

  2. Deb
    March 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM #

    One of my favorite movies is the Memoirs of a Geisha. I’m fascinated by their world, the secret behind the make-up and one-of-a-kind costume. I have seen some of them in Gion, too. And like you, I have doubts that the ones I saw were the real ones. They’re probably maikos.

  3. Nema
    March 11, 2014 at 8:30 AM #

    Thier life must really be interesting. When I go to Japan, I want to experience wearing their costume, put on a make-up and be looking like a geisha!

  4. Angie
    March 11, 2014 at 2:58 PM #

    I was in Kyoto and waited for geishas/maikos to appear for three hours. When they appeared it was raining a bit but tourists just followed her like she’s a celebrity on a red carpet. It’s an experience I would never forget about Japan.

  5. Lonie
    March 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM #

    When I was young I wanted to be a geisha! lol…

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