Another timeless & stunning scene in Gion. Suzuko and other Geiko dressed up and getting excited by the parade to come. For some reason, I didn't take any picture of the parade. My focus was on this beautiful crowd.
Now I can say that I have something in common with Maiko Kyouka: Photography. She also took many pictures of Gion Matsuri main parade. We laughed looking at each other camera. I don't know about her pictures, but I am really glad about this one. 85mm, focus set on her eye.
Several Geiko and Maiko were gathered in front of the Ochaya Ichiriki. Usually they would already be inside with their guests. But on that night they were all waiting outside on Hanamikoji because a Mikoshi was brought through Gion famous street by the participants of the festival.
Everyone was very excited. I hardly had time to make this shot. A few seconds later I was pushed to the wall by the movement of the crowd.
Like last year, Kyouka, Sayaka and Satsuki had fun watching Gion Matsuri main procession and cheering the men pulling the hoko (Click here to view the same scene in 2010, Sayaka was still a Maiko and Satsuki not yet one).
And as every year, it was great to be there.
They are Gion "superstars" but so easy going and accessible. I am grateful to all of them for their kindness and the wonderful photo series.
Gion Matsuri is the most famous festival in Japan. It takes place every year in July in Kyoto and is crowned by a procession on July 17th called Yamaboko Junkō (山鉾巡行). This colorful parade consists of men dressed in traditional costumes pulling 32 portable shrines through some of Kyoto main streets, Shijo, Karasuma and Oike. The floats are usually called Mikoshi (神輿) throughout Japan but Hoko (鉾) in Kyoto. All floats are made of wood, assembled a few days before the parade, carry musicians and are decorated with tapestries and fabrics.
The festival is over 1100 years old and originates a series of disasters such as plagues, epidemics or earthquake in the 9th Century. The priest of Yasaka Shrine decided to lead a procession to pray and ask for a divine intervention to stop these disasters. The festival is held once a year since and remains very popular.
These are 2 of the lovely Sato-girls, Maiko from Kamishichiken. They just performed a dance and are now greeting the audience. I like this angle. You can admire the Obi perfectly tied up and the neck which is the only part of the body that is not covered by the hikizuri (kimono) or oshiroi (white make up). After a dance performance, they often sweat but no one sees it because they face the audience. Afterwards, they always use a handkerchief before it spreads to the make up. So elegant, as always.
"Miyako no Nigiwai" is a brilliant idea to gather all five Kagai for a joint dance performance.
The Gokagai (5 kagai, Maiko districts, literally flower street) usually organize their own performance separately. Miyako no Nigiwai is therefore a unique chance to see all of them together. It takes place every year on the 3rd week-end of June. People no longer call this event "Miyako no Nigiwai" but simply "Gokagai".
I was a bit too far to take good shots but the above picture gives a good overview of this fantastic show. This is the final dance when all Geiko and Maiko greet the audience.
As usual, it is as interesting to watch inside as outside. The show is amazing but outside it is also wonderful to see other Geiko and Maiko who come to attend the performance with their guests.
Geiko Sayaka, portrait
I had not seen Sayaka san since her Erikae. She kindly posed for this portrait. She looks fantastic. I like how she draw the red on her eyes.
Geiko Katsuyuki, portrait
Among the recent Geiko, Katsuyuki san looks stunning too. I had not seen her as a Geiko yet. She was still a Maiko when I took the following pictures. This was only half a year ago but it seems an eternity.
Another wonderful day in Gion. But you had to be at 2 places at the same time. One was Hojyoe at Tatsumibashi, a ceremony where Maiko Makino and Masaki released some goldfish in the river (I will post some photos later). And the other one was Maiko Kosen's Erikae, the ceremony where she became a Geiko. So I missed the beginning but I could join the crowd later on.
Congratulations to Kosen san for her erikae.
It's quite unusual but her Erikae took place on a Sunday. I felt a bit sorry for her because it was more crowded than usual and many Ochaya were closed. But anyway, she looks stunning as a Geiko and I hope she enjoyed her special day.
Really glad I finally got the chance to make some portraits. The above picture was shot at the Handicraft museum. She was quite nervous in one of her still rare public appearance. On the below one, she already felt better and I am of course so grateful to her for this lovely portrait.
Ohara is a village North-East of Kyoto famous for its temples Ohara and Hosen-In as well as agriculture. The Ohara-me procession celebrates Ohara women elegant blue outfits since Muromachi era. It gathers women and girls from the village and its surroundings, starts in Jakko-in up to Ohara temple.
Just a few more days to enjoy Kamogawa Odori, the spring dance performed by the Maiko and Geiko of Pontocho. It's 5:30 and 30 seconds. The show finished at 5:30pm sharp and they are already running back to their Okiya to get ready to work in the evening. They're still wearing the hikizuri (outfit) they used for the show.
Pontocho (Kyoto famous narrow street full of restaurants) is such a photogenic place. And with all of them, this is just perfect.
Momifuku, Mitsuna, Momiju, Hisasuzu, Tomoyuki
Believe it or not, but these smiles from Mitsuna and Momiju are for me!
May sees plenty of festivals every day. These are always photogenic events. This is a portrait of a man carrying the Mikoshi at Ujigami Matsuri.
The Mikoshi is a portable shrine that is brought through every street and to every house supporting that temple. Participants receive a divine protection for another year. The Mikoshi is quite heavy and the procession last several hours, therefore all men look pretty exhausted at the end of the day. But if you live in the district or the village organizing the festival, you have to participate!
Sometimes it gets pretty dangerous with fire etc... like for this one.
Sweet little Mao-chan. I hope to see her again during the main procession on May 15.
Aoi Matsuri is the festival of the 2 Kamo shrines, Shimogamo and Kamigamo. It was once believed that Aoi flower (hollyhock) would protect against natural disasters. This is one of the "big three" festivals in Kyoto with Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri.
The main event is a procession held on May 15 with several characters dressed in costumes from the Heian court. One of the main character, the Saio-dai is a woman who represents purity. These pictures were taken during a "purification ceremony" (saio dai misogi no gi) at Shimogamo on May 4.
On May 1, Geiko and Oneesan from Gion kobu went to Yasaka shrine for the ceremony that ends Miyako Odori.
Yasaka shrine is so touristic that I didn't take many photos there so far. But this shrine means so much for all residents in Gion, not only during Gion Matsuri. This is the sacred place that protects them. By watching Gion-kobu Geiko and Maiko going there, as a natural step after Miyako Odori, to pray and to thank the divinity that everything went well during Miyako Odori, I looked at it differently.
So I'm now thinking about Yasaka shrine for a future post...but coming back to the ceremony:
Maiko who participated to Miyako Odori didn't attend the ceremony but just went there to greet and thank their Oneesan and teacher.
It was really like a dream. It was unbelievable to see all of them at the same time dressed up so beautifully.
On the above picture, they are looking at their dance teacher with eyes full of respect. This is so beautiful.
After the greetings, they all returned to their Okiya in Gion followed by the usual crowd of photographers.
These two are friends. Is it the Osaka connection ? Anyway, it was the first time I heard them talking to each other using Osaka-ben (Osaka dialect) instead of the usual Kyoto-ben used by the Maiko and Geiko. This was maybe their way to relax a bit after an exhausting month. Lovely!