07 November 2011

Geisha from Kyoto

During the past weekend I had the pleasure to catch a glimpse of geisha hailed all the way from Kyoto at downtown Tokyo, which is a treat considering that the geisha culture is pretty rare in Tokyo.

It was held at a Kyoto-style jewelry boutique called Niwaka at Aoyama (青山), within walking distance from the shopping streets of Omotesando (表参道) and Harajuku (原宿). Organizer of the event was a Facebook page promoting none other than Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan.


What makes this event exciting is that the event is open for public free of charge, comes with complimentary sparkling beverage and a door gift upon leaving! It's hard to believe that there's such event exist when I first heard about it lol.

Waiting for the geisha's graceful appearance.

The 3 geishas of the day.

To make it clear, the term "geisha" (芸者) is a rather generic term referring to the traditional Japanese entertainers. Over here, they are 3 different ranks of geisha.

This in the yellow kimono, is an apprentice geisha officially called as a "maiko" (舞妓). In other words, she's a rank lower than a geisha. About this maiko, she is called Yaemi (弥ゑ美), it's her 2nd year as a maiko.

The other 2 are the senior figures to Yaemi, maiko Fukuho (ふく帆) in purple kimono and geiko Miehina (美恵雛) in pale colour kimono.

Fukuho is said to be in her 4th year as maiko, and the most senior figure, Miehina is officially a geisha. Note that the hairstyle for the juniors are more stylish while the senior's hairstyle is much matured.

According to the info provided at the event, normally a girl will become maiko at the age of 15, 16. As she reaches 20 or 21, she'll be promoted to be a geisha, aka geiko (芸妓). From here I guess one can roughly guess how old they are, still pretty young isn't it?

Contra to popular misconception, geisha IS NOT prostitute. No thanks to the movie "Memoirs of Geisha" and the fact that the word "妓" actually means prostitute in Chinese. They are proper traditional entertainers as mentioned, mainly dance and sing to the customer, play games with them and serve them drinks.

Well then, arguments shall end here. Free flow pics to follow below.

Inside the boutique where the event is held. I've heard that the plant decos were brought over from Kyoto huh.

With Yaemi.
It was kinda tricky to edit this picture to hit a balance where the lighting looks good enough for both. Eventually I opt for making her face looks clearer.

Everyone's of course, eager to take photo with the geishas.

The seniors.

Side profiles.


Before the dance begins. The senior Miehina plays the shamisen (三味線), leaving the dancing part to the juniors.


Love the reflection on the glass panel.




IMG_9209 edit

IMG_9230 edit

The dressing is also an important part of maiko/geisha. Unfortunately I'm not knowledgeable in that to provide explanation here.

Great shots from the same event I found on Flickr.
Yaemi Fukuho and Miehina


Fukuho Momiji no Hashi

The attention of details is absolutely perfect. Gracefully and elegantly, their performance is much easier to understand and appreciate compared to the kabuki theatre.

To meet with a geisha in person was one of the things that I'd like to did in Japan, and happily this has been realized! Perhaps next stop, I should be heading to Kyoto then?

I owe this favor to the organizer who came up with such great event. If there's anything similar again in the future I'll be looking forward to join it!

Somehow the 3 of them are very popular on the net, especially Miehina. A search on Flickr came out with lots of surprising pictures, including those when they didn't put on the heavy makeups.

Yaemi (as a shikomi)
Miyagawacho, now #26


Alright, end of this blog post.
It's been awhile since I last wrote such a satisfying post phew!

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