Arif's Journeys » Travel and Photography Blog of Arif Iqball

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The Geisha of Asakusa, Tokyo

Last weekend also was an opportunity to revisit the area of Asakusa, home of the famous Sensoji Temple. Although the main event was the Sanja Matsuri, I took this opportunity to photograph some of the Tokyo based Geisha perhaps less well known than their Kyoto based sisters. Kyoto is world famous for the Maiko and Geiko but this world also exists in Tokyo albeit at a less extensive stage.

Many people will find my Maiko and Geiko pictures to be very traditional portraits with the Maiko and Geiko making eye contact with me, the photographer. There is a School of Portrait Photography which looks down upon these simplistic shots, but for me they are intentional and represent the moment of interaction between them and myself. For me, most photographs of these shooting stars are taken while they are making their graceful appearances from one side street to the other, chased by an army of photographers who try to capture any photograph they can of these local celebrities. I find those photographs and photographers to lack respect for them as an artist and hence I always ask the Maiko and Geiko if I can take their picture and almost always they have stopped for me and said yes. Good manners transcend cross cultural boundaries and all of them appreciate a show of respect.

Last weekend, I also had the opportunity to meet Sayuki-san who became the first Westerner to enter the world of the Geisha. I can only imagine the difficulties she must have gone through to become a Geisha and the more I learned abut her, the more respect I developed. Australian born, educated in Management and Social Anthropology at Oxford University, Fiona Graham, is also an accomplished flutist, a skill which she continues to practice in her role as a Geisha. She continues to research these aspects of Japanese culture and has also given lectures in various locations around the world. I hope I will get an opportunity to learn more about her in the future.

Please click here for a slideshow of my work of Kyoto’s Maiko and Geiko

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