Birth of a geiko

Paul van der Veer

2017 - Ongoing

Since the spring of April 2017 I am allowed to follow two maiko (apprentice geisha) from the Hanafusa house in the geisha district of Miyagawacho (Kyoto) in their quest to become a geiko (the Kyoto dialect for geisha). The world of the geisha's is normally closed to outsiders, but I was very lucky to find just the right connection that allowed me acces into this mysterious world.

In November last year I was invited by the geisha mother to witness and photograph the danpatsu shiki and erikae ceremonies of maiko Kikuyae during which she turned to fullfledged geiko.

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  • Maiko Kikuyae performing her very last dance as a maiko. The dance is called 'Kurokami' (black hair).

  • The 'Kurokami' dance symbolises the transition from youth to adult world.

  • Maiko Kikuyae just after performing her very last dance as a maiko. She's wearing the sakkoo hairstyle indicating the last stage of her apprenticeship.

  • Just before the start of the 'danpatsu shiki' ceremony Maiko Kikuyae shows her shyness and emotions.

  • The kanzashi decorations are taken out of her hair.

  • Maiko Fukukana is cutting through the small strings that keep maiko Kikuyae's sakkoo hairstyle together.

  • During the danpatsu shiki ceremony other maiko and family members carefully cut out the individual hair extensions.

  • Kikuyae drying her tears after the danpatsu shiki ceremony has finished. Her teeth are blackened with ohaguro (black tooth wax).

  • Former geiko Kikuyu applies the white oshiroi make-up on the day of Kikuyae's debut as a geiko.

  • Touches of pink are applied to symbolise her youth. The older she gets the less pink her face will be.

  • A metal stencil tool is used to paint the 3 pronged white 'sanbonashi' shape in the nape of her neck.

  • Red details are added to Kikuyae's make-up.

  • The wig makers adjusting and styling the look of Kikuyae's 'katsura' wig.

  • Geiko Kikuyae checking herself in the mirror. She was very surprised by her new look.

  • Her friends from the Miyagawacho geisha district drop in to get a first glimps of geiko Kikuyae's new look.

  • The 'otokoshi' (dresser) has arrived.

  • While her close friends are watching, the otokoshi is dressing geiko Kikuyae into her most formal kimono.

  • Geiko Kikuyae is holding one of the thin cussions that will help to get the seven meter long obi belt into the right shape.

  • While the geisha mother looks on, the wig maker is doing a last minute adjustment before geiko Kikuyae wil step out to start her introduction round in the Miyagawacho neigbourhood.

  • Geiko Kikuyae is ready to meet the waiting press and fans outside her geisha house.

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