Surprise! Coloured pencil drawing from 2011. 360 x 410 mm. Two maiko round a corner to come face to face with waiting photographers.

Coloured pencil drawing from 2011. 360 x 410 mm.
Two maiko round a corner to come face to face with waiting photographers.

Last week I wrote about the wonderful time I had photographing Katsuyuki during her erikae in my post Daughter of Kyoto.

This week I would like to show another drawing I made from that particular trip to Kyoto in February 2011.  This drawing describes something like an ambush which these two maiko walked into.  As they rounded a corner in Miyagawa-cho, Kanamitsu and Kimihiro almost collided with a wall of photographers.   I was in a position to see them coming so I caught the moment – bam!  Of course after the cameras flashed, the photographers divided like the Red Sea and the two maiko continued on through.  Their pace was, as usual, very fast.  Maiko and geiko remind one of the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland” –  always in a hurry.

In fact that night was rather like a chapter from “Alice in Wonderland”.  It was February 3rd – “Setsubun” – a celebration of the seasonal change from winter to spring.   People were dressed up as all sorts of mythological and magical beings – rather like a huge fancy dress party.  Teams of loudly chanting priests marched through Gion tossing beans and handing out packets of beans – to symbolize driving away evil spirits and encouraging good fortune.  It was an extremely merry (and quite touching) night.  So of course there were many photographers out to record events.  I usually find Kyoto otherworldly but this night was beyond the beyond!

This self-appointed Alice is heading back to Wonderland in just under three weeks.  I miss Kyoto and therefore it is time for another trip.  A British man on the radio today was explaining to his interviewer why he was compelled to return to Spain every so often.  He said, “I have to keep returning.  It’s rather like a soap opera.  I want to know what they’ve been getting up to while I’ve been away”.   I know exactly what he means!

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4 thoughts on “Surprise!

  1. anna warren portfolio

    This is so different from your other Japanese drawings, the others are contained (mostly) in their own world, this is the clash of modernity with classicism. The composition is great, the balance of detail and colour with dark, shadowy forms – truly a captured moment! Beautifully done. I do like your analogy of the White Rabbit, I can just imagine the maiko skittering along, hurry, hurry to wherever they needed to be. The evening sounds almost like a dream sequence – I would love to see some of those costumed figures, and beans flying through the air!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Thanks, Anna. I don’t have the costumed figures or monks on the computer any more. I have actual photos in my albums but was way too lazy to scan them for my post. This post was a spontaneous one which I sat down and wrote last night with no forethought or planning.
      This drawing gives you an idea of what the poor maiko and geiko have to put up with. I sometimes feel very sorry for them – even though I also want to capture what the other photographers want.
      You can see in their body movement the way they are caught out. The taller one turns her head. She would probably like to rush back where she had come from – but there is no escape. They must just push on. It is a hard life. No wonder so many of them quit.

  2. Ann Kullberg

    Can you imagine living your life like that…always skipping along in geta – avoiding photographers and gawkers at every turn? Last spring, we saw this scene several times in Kyoto, and I felt like it was a bit of “unicorn hunting”…tourists standing in clumps, cameras ready, whispered conversations, “Have you seen one yet?” “There were two on the next street over a while ago…”

    All hoping to catch a unicorn – a glimpse of a maiko-san. I couldn’t help but feel awfully sorry for the women.

    You’ve captured that feeling so well with this piece, Julie!!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      No, Ann, I can’t imagine living my life like that. However the young girls who choose to do this for a least a few years (most stop after a few years) go in with their eyes open. For the first year, hopefuls (before they even become shikomi – which is before they come maiko) live in the same lodging as maiko and geiko. They do all the tasks asked of them, serving the maiko and geiko as required. This includes following them around the streets, holding their various bags, sometimes holding a parasol above them if it is raining. So they clearly see what they are going to be up against once they don their fabulous kimono. I think some are probably starstruck, thinking it will be amazing to be photographed from dawn to dusk. Probably like young girls all over the world, they think it would be lovely to be centre-of-attention. But the reality of it must be relentless. I imagine an analogy would be like going outdoors and being attacked by a hoard of mosquitoes every day, all seasons. However in the case of maiko and geiko, the mosquitoes are photographers.
      I’m going to Kyoto in two weeks to be a buzzing mosquito as well!!!


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