exquisite living works of art
September 23, 2006 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Geiko of Kyoto is a stunning photo gallery of Kyotos's Geisha - both the mature Geiko and the apprentice Maiko. Melissa Chasse annotates many photos with fascinating details and offers an account of her tea party with Mamechika, a lovely Maiko. For more, this lovely Geisha site offers a brief history from the era of the floating world, more photos, Ukiyo-e art, and links. Also see y2karls' prior definitive post on ukiyo-e.
posted by madamjujujive (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
related ask.
posted by delmoi at 4:54 PM on September 23, 2006

Madam, you continue to be an ornament to this establishment. Go-chisoosama deshita.
posted by languagehat at 5:13 PM on September 23, 2006

Yes, arigato, jujujive-san! (In honor of your lovely pics, here are some cherry buds and blossoms snapped this week in the Down Under springtime.)

posted by rob511 at 5:26 PM on September 23, 2006

Thank you so much. What a lovely set of photographs!
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:47 PM on September 23, 2006

Go-chisoosama deshita

And now, mjj, you say "osomatsusamadeshita" to languagehat and the social verbal contract will be complete.

Nice geisha pix. Dag, they wear a lottta makeup!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:43 PM on September 23, 2006

thanks, flapjax at midnite - I was just googling around for a phrase for that. I was just going to settle for a bow, so I will do that to the esteemed langaugehat, to rob511 for the blossoms, and to delmoi for the link - that is a fascinating question posed to askme. The comments from paulsc are so rich and should not be missed by anyone who finds this subject of interest. Wonder if dirtynumbangelboy was able to line anything up ...
posted by madamjujujive at 6:50 PM on September 23, 2006

posted by basicchannel at 7:32 PM on September 23, 2006

posted by basicchannel at 7:44 PM on September 23, 2006


Very wow.
posted by dozo at 7:50 PM on September 23, 2006

I just have to say, I was just in Kyoto and actually saw a Geisha, possibly two, shuffling down a dark, mysterious alley marked extremely subtly as "London House" (I think). I understand Kyoto is the capital of such sightings, but still I thought it was pretty cool. Thanks for the links.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:02 PM on September 23, 2006

Wow, and not ONE comment about that lizard in those commercials on TV. Way to go Metafilter!

(Oh, damn)
posted by thanotopsis at 8:08 PM on September 23, 2006

Thanks for your compliment about my comments in the AskMe thread, madamjujujive. As I said there, I had the privilege on several business visits to Japan, of being honored with some afternoons and evenings in Kyoto, which included geisha parties, under various circumstances.

What I see in your first link are women who may be geisha, or may also be skilled kabuki actors (even men!), performing in public places. The costumes and the venues (shadows, lighting, staging, etc.) in some of the photos are clearly theatrical, lacking the fine detail of the traditional tea house settings, and the richness of the beautiful kimono of most geisha. The maiko of your second link is obviously entertaining in a traditional setting, and if you compare the delicacy of her costume's details, and the intimacy of her setting, to some of the photos of the first link, you can see what I mean.

No matter, though. Kabuki actors are skilled in their own right, and geisha are famously represented throughout kabuki plays, as well as in ukiyo-e. For most purposes, kabuki "geisha" may even be better for gaijin who wish to photograph and want to see a show demonstrating the arts (music and dance) of geisha, than "true" geisha, working in traditional settings.

Part of the charm of a traditional geisha evening is in the nuances, and for gaijin unable to speak Japanese, as I am unable, there is an ever present sense of being a chock in the cogs of a greater cultural system, that one can never truly get over, no matter the gracious attention of such gentle women. That ever present stiffness is greatly mitigated in a kabuki theatre, where the player(s) and the audience members enjoy a distance that permits each the appreciation of the other, without the direct observation of one another so stressful in Japanese society. My great regret during nearly every moment I spent with geisha was being so much gaijin, as to make them self-concious, as if I were some great hulking bear-man, like to spring upon them at any second, swallowing them up like hummingbird appetizers on my way to a more substantial repast.

Thanks for a good post, madamjujujive, and a gentle reminder of spring nights in Kyoto, some years ago.
posted by paulsc at 8:30 PM on September 23, 2006

You gaze at these and wonder how, how they managed to get so much so wrong in that stultifying film?

(I happened to watch "Memoirs" very recently. Even knowing the carping reviews I was dazed with disappointment.)

Just a fabulous post. Thanks.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:22 AM on September 24, 2006

Oni wa soto!! Fuku wa uchi! indeed. Thanks be to the Jujujive of Geishahood and other players.
posted by peacay at 5:31 AM on September 24, 2006

Alas, the event came to naught, but I still have my hopes for doing something in the future.

Lovely photos, O Ever-Intriguing MJJJ.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:04 AM on September 24, 2006

I contacted Melissa Chasse - the photographer and author of the first two links, to let her know about this post. I told her that if she had any comments, I would be happy to post them. Here is what she wrote:

"Just to clarify, all of the images of the "Geiko of Kyoto" are indeed Geiko of Kyoto. As I write in the captions, many of those photos were taken during the world famous "dances of spring", traditional performances staged at the Gion, Pontocho, Miyagawa or Kamishichiken Kaburenjo, theatres built specifically for the geisha dances. ALL OF THE IMAGES ARE GEISHA OF KYOTO. The Geiko of Miyagawa also study the art of kabuki, along with calligraphy, tea ceremony, shamisen, hand drum, dance, and many others. The Kyo Odori, their spring dance, often inculdes a short kabuki peice, performed entirely by geisha of the district. NONE of the geiko in the images are onnagata (men who play the female roles in traditinally all-male Kabuki). Although Paulsc may not find all of the older geisha beautiful, the beauty of the tradition is that they can survive in the karyukai because their skill and mastery of the arts is so highly valued by their customers...

Kimono used in these performances are often very special kimonos designed specifically for the performances, and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Some of the kimono are worn by the geisha or maiko for the entire month, for their appointments as well as for the performance. The quality of the kimono, obi, and kanazashi is impeccable, never less then the best, and if they appear less than breath-taking it is due to the poor quality of my camera.

I have lived in Japan for over 2 years, which I realize is an extremely short time. But in that time, I have been blessed to meet and speak with many maiko. As a woman, close in age to many of the maiko I have met, and being able to speak Japanese, I have had quite a different experience with the geiko of Kyoto. I do not see them as hummingbirds afraid of being devoured. I see them as intelligent, dedicated, and incredibly disciplined, delicate in their ethereal beauty but confident and determined in their ability to master the arts and preserve their tradition."

She also let me know that she had more images to upload, so any who find this topic of interest may want to check back.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:06 AM on September 25, 2006

I didn't comment yesterday because I was in (ha!) Gion. A domestic movie with a big-name star started filming today at the Kawahisa ocha-ya next door to my mother-in-law's house. Judging from the jilted-lover-becomes-geisha-to-get-revenge plot outline, this will be one stinker of a movie.

By the way, why not try saying "gochisoo-sama-deshita" in kyoto dialect? "Gottsu o-han doshita."
posted by planetkyoto at 6:46 AM on September 25, 2006

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