I didn’t get a chance to go to Gion when I was in Kyoto which is the Geisha district, so I didn’t see any when I was there. I did watch this BBC documentary about the training to become one which is quite interesting.
It was released the same year as the film Memoirs of a Geisha, so it’s no surprise that it doesn’t deviate from that view of the life of a geisha (I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved the book, but the film was painful, though pretty, to watch). It’s an interesting perspective of the relevance of the profession today which is essentially a way of preserving aspects of Japanese traditional culture.
The most spectacular aspect is the elaborate costumes the geisha and maiko wear to set them apart from modern society. However, I’ve been surprised by the amount of Japanese people I have seen in traditional dress since I’ve been here. Apparently it has become quite popular with the young people, both men and women, particularly for festivals during the summer. A yukata is the summer version of the kimono, usually made of cotton and can be got for quite cheap. They look so comfortable, not to mention cool, in both senses of the word. I may have to purchase one, though I would be too embarrassed to wear it in public without being accompanied by a Japanese person to lend me the authority to be seen like that. These photos are from a fireworks festival in Kanazawa and a lantern festival in Nara (more to come on Nara).