I arrive at the inn where I am to stay in Kyoto and lug my bag up the steep stairs to my room. The inn was once a geisha house and the room is barely furnished, though it does have a tiny lacquered dressing table with a long narrow mirror. A balcony offers a view over the street, and the houses on the other side are nearly close enough to reach out and touch.
Facebook Twitter Email. CNN — It's p. A dozen or so camera-clutching tourists line both sides of the cobblestone road, waiting for that magical moment.
Gion, Kyoto is one of the most well known Geisha districts in Japan, with beautifully preserved architecture and traditional customs and entertainment. This geisha, who I photographed from the side, was posing for some Chinese tourists, with some British tourists lined up next. In July each year the Gion Matsuri festival is held, as it has been since Walking through the streets of Gion it becomes very clear that there are no shortage of places to eat.
One after another, they round the corner and shuffle into the room swiftly and quietly, only creating the slightest of sound as their tiny steps meet the tatami mat. The moment they enter, the atmosphere changes; their presence raises hairs on arms, and everyone immediately goes quiet, in awe of the beauty that has just arrived. On this particular evening, we are honored with the presence of two geiko and one maiko.
Although you can find Geisha throughout Japan, the city of Kyoto is considered the heart of geisha culture. What is a geisha you may ask? Geisha are professional entertainers who attend to guests during private parties, dinners and other special occasions.
Iwasaki was the most famous geiko in Japan until her sudden publicized retirement at the age of Known for her performances for celebrity and royalty during her geisha life, Iwasaki was an established heir or atotori to her geisha house okiya while she was just an apprentice. American author Arthur Golden interviewed her for background information when writing his book, Memoirs of a Geisha.
Join us after the jump for a look at a selection of picture cards of both famous and anonymous geisha, at the height of their fame and while still in training. In those days, people collected photographic portraits, known as bromides, of their favorite celebrities, not unlike how people collect baseball or idol cards today. This compilation mainly showcases geisha aka geigi and apprentice geisha hangyoku from the Shinbashi, Akasaka, and Yanagibashi districts of Tokyo. If these women dressed up in modern day fashion, do you think they would be just as popular nowadays?
At the peak of her career in the s, Mineko Iwasaki was probably the most famous and highest-earning geisha in Japan. Chosen as heir to the Iwasaki geisha house in Gion, she left her home aged four and was legally adopted by the geisha house "mother" in the s. Iwasaki endured the rigours of geisha training to rise to the top of her profession; by the time she retired at 29, she had entertained some of the most famous people in the world, including Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, and former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.