Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Geisha of Kyoto

One of the high points of our trip was finding the Geisha in Kyoto. I think everyone has heard of a "geisha" but little is known about this traditional artform of the Japanese culture. I would give you a history lesson, but I am definately not qualified. What I know, is what most of the world knows and that comes from the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha. Thanks Hollywood! :)

The night we arrived at our Kyoto hotel, I asked the front desk clerk where would be the best place to see a geisha. He looked troubled. In his words, they were rare and I would be lucky to see just one. This is not at all the answer I was hoping to hear. The clerk gave us a map and pointed out a few locations that would be more favorable for a quick sighting.

So, one evening we took a taxi down into the Gion district and took to the streets. This district is where many of the traditions geisha houses are and where they perform. Our taxi dropped us of and we took off. It was a very hot and muggy night, but tourists were everywhere. For those of you planning to go to Kyoto, you want to take a taxi to Gion Corner. This is a huge theatre for traditional geisha performances. In the parking lot, you will see black sedans with dark tinted windows and stern looking drivers. From what we could tell, these are the geisha's drivers.

I have to tell you that I am not a "star struck" person. I can't think of a Hollywood actor that I really care to meet; they are just people that are paid waaay too much for what they do. BUT, my heart was pounding with excitement when the first (yes, we saw MORE than one!) geisha jumped out of her chauffeured car and swiftly walked to the Gion Corner. I can tell you that they are FAST in their clog like shoes. They are not there to stop and pose for a picture, (though, I did get one to do just that!) they are one their way to work.

So, we saw our first beautiful geisha and I was thrilled. We walked down the road just a bit and noticed that many tourists were standing at this particular corner with cameras in hand. We walked up that little alley and on a quiet side road another geisha stepped out of her home. I think she and I were both quite suprised to see each other. She was kind enough to let me snap a few pictures of her and then she quickly went on her way. This happened with another as well, but I think her clogs must have had jet packs on them because she was gone in a flash.

All in all, we were able to spot 5 geisha in a 2 hour time frame. Yay! I was excited and thrilled to see for myself these mysterious cultural women. Here are a few pictures. Please keep in mind when looking at these pictures that:
1. It was very dark, so the lighting was not great.
2. I am still a novice in taking decent pictures and have much to learn.
3. I was so excited with each sighting that my camera was less than steady. I was not born to be paparazzi.

This is a picture of the one geisha that took a moment to stop and let me snap a picture.

This is the Obi from the back. I love the white paint and how it is perfectly done on her neck.

This is the first one that we saw at Gion Corner. She was only out of her car and then into the building for less than 1 minute and probably had her picture taken at least 2 dozen times by several bystanders (myself included!).

This is the geisha with jet packs in the shoes...she was fast!

1 comment:

Angie said...

I would love to see a real Geisha! I finally read the book, "Memoirs of a Geisha". Lots of additional information about the way they dress. Certain colors mean different things, hair style, combs, forms of respect, etc.

I don't know what you mean about your pictures?? You always do a wonderful job! The information you have is so much fun to read. :)