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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

A friend in Tomichie 富千英

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

This is my medical student turned Maiko, Tomichie.

I have known Tomichie for 4 years now, because I frequent the teahouse she works at and am good friends with the other 2 Geikos working there.

Attracted to kimono and dance, and inspired by the many beautiful photos she saw of the Maikos and Geikos, Tomichie tells me it is her lifetime ambition to become a Geisha, but her father prefers her to study medicine instead. It took her quite awhile with her super pestering skill to convince him to give her his blessings.

However, life as a Maiko is not easy, there are many strict rules to follow - no handphones, strict and busy lessons and work schedules with little time off such that many girls quit the profession halfway. Competition is stiff and all the girls have such high standards. Sometimes, she does get stressed with work and Tomichie frequently asked me if she has made the right decision, I told her to just follow her dreams. Being a Maiko, you have to start at 15 or 16 years of age, the training takes 5 years. I told her she can still enter medical school at a later age in her 20s if she changes her mind.

Tomichie - her name means "Literary Flower" in Japanese / Chinese. She speaks fluent Japanese and English and is well-versed in the arts of dance, music, conversation.

In her rare off days, Tomichie enjoys going to Pet Cafes in Japan, she tells me her favourite ones are those with reptiles and she is a big fan of my frog and snakes photos.

This is Tomichie as she is coming out of her teahouse. Look how beautiful she is...her facial features exactly like what it is portrayed in those old Japanese paintings and woodblock prints.

The photo got a Special Mention in 2019 at the Photographer of the Year contest.

Needless to say, Tomichie is one of my favourite photo subjects.

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