The goofy-looking guy below had a matcha-flavoured parfait....
There's a very good website Immortal Geisha the goes into the history and general information... and explains some differences between geisha and their apprentices, maiko. Actually geisha are more correctly called geiko in the Kyōto area.
When I first saw her, I have to admit that I was a little worried by her young stalker - who stuck steadfastly to her footsteps. I had thought originally that she was like a geisha groupie - but I think the reality was a little different however...
Clearly - they're not as elusive as first thought... In actual fact, it turns out Friday night in Gion is a good time to go maiko spotting. Just not the best time to take photos.
Now this maiko had style... and poise.
I have to say however - for me, the maiko or geisha attractiveness is not in the gaudy trappings, or the make up (or even the attractiveness of the women for that matter)... it's the sense of the moment in time that they keep alive by their very presence. As if, for but a short instant in time and space, a hole opened up to another era, through which you could glance something that most probably has no good reason to still exist in this day and age. I'm glad it does exist however.
Here's a slightly blurred capture of the nape makeup from behind. Oops - a little smudged. Must have been in a hurry! You can also see the red fabric around the collar that denotes her as a maiko.
It was a strange time out in Gion that night... and I have to admit that I felt a "gamblers bug" for the first time. There was something alluring about staying that little bit longer... for one more glimpse. What outfit or hair piece would come next? To be honest, some maiko were clearly unhappy with the admittedly over-intense attention of some photographers (I wouldn't of course put myself in that category). Others however clearly enjoyed the attention. They certainly had no doubts who the people were here to see.
The maiko would suddenly appear from out of one of the doors of the tea houses (ochaya), and then walk along the streets and alleyways of Gion briefly before disappearing behind yet another door. Closed to our eyes.
The one myth I can lay to rest... the idea that geisha don't smile or laugh is definitely no true. There was much laughter and smiles all around. The maiko in the front seat is quite junior given the amount of skin showing around her hairline (which is her natural hair) and also the fact that only her lower lip is painted.
These women were having a good time... and maybe that's because of (or inspite of) all of the attention now focussed on them by I would imaging 20-30 tourists (including Japanese) who were waiting patiently at the door step of the teahouse.
This is my favourite shot of the whole night.
And here we get to see the stark differences between geisha (left) and maiko (right). It's not the most comfortable of footwear. I imagine that's part of the training - to learn how to be elegant walking in shoewear (the thick soled shoes are called okobo) like that must be quite demanding. We can see here the overall lack of ornamentation worn by the geisha (both in terms of hair pieces and fabric pattern). The shorter sleeves on the kimono is another give away (maiko's kimono sleeves typically go to their ankles). And of course - the privilege of seniority is apparently you get to wear more comfortable shoes (geta rather than okobo).
From the back you can see other differences - most notably the difference in neck line. The maiko has a distinctive gap in her alabaster white make-up around the nape of her neck. Her hair is tied much higher, and here her obi is quite a lot longer and more flashy. And then... before you know it... they've gone, into one of the many exclusive establishments in Gion... not for the likes of you or me.
Well - that was an adventure. T-chan eventually gave me that look as to say, "ok - you've had your fun for the evening... now get me some food!" Hmmm... I think T-chan's enthusiasm for geisha-spotting had started to wain. We found a nice little restaurant and had a simple dinner. We were both famished. Ok... it was not the most up-market of restaurants... but within our modest budget it was a nice meal. Especially for Gion.
That night, foot-sore and exhausted I started to set down the day in my diary. It was a fun day today - very busy, but full of different experiences. Thank you T-chan for being such a thoughtful, loving and very indulging wife, partner and friend.