I read Memoirs of a Geisha several times and that book probably inspired me. Because I really wanted to spot a geisha when we were in Kyoto. And we did: two times! It was every bit as exciting as I imagined. The traditions and history surrounding the geishas are kind of magical and let’s not forget those gorgeous kimonos…
One sighting was very special. We were walking down the busy, narrow street of Pontocho, trying to find a nice place to eat. It was already dark and we weren’t looking for geishas. And all of the sudden, the crowd parted. Everybody seemed to collectively hold in their breaths. I looked around and saw her: a beautiful geisha emerged out of nowhere, dressed in an yellow kimono with dazzling, complicated figures. Her lips were red, her skin pale. And her hair was a nothing less than work of art, decorated with colorful hair pieces. She walked very fast on her wooden geta, ignoring all the stares. It lasted about five seconds and then people whipped out their cameras, trying to get at least one shot. The magic was broken.
For once, I didn’t feel the need to take my camera out. For me, the sighting was complete without the picture. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try photographing a geisha anymore during the rest of our stay! I took the above picture in Ninenzaka and although these girls are probably dressed up Japanese tourists, I still like it.