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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Geisha New Year Portrait 恭賀新春 · 謹賀新年



The crisp winter air, still tinged with the lingering scent of pine and incense from the New Year's festivities, carried a unique energy as the Maiko and Geiko returned to the heart of Gion. After a precious week spent celebrating the ancient rituals of the New Year, the joyous clamour and vibrant colours of their individual lives returned. The break, a rare and cherished event in their demanding schedules, allowed these young women, the apprentices and the masters of the ancient art of geisha, to celebrate the Buddhist/Shintoist New Year together, uniting them in a shared tradition. The solemnity of the temple visits, the quiet reflection during the family gatherings, the laughter and playful banter during the shared meals, all blended into a unique experience that reinforced their shared identity. Now, as they walked through the familiar streets, their kimonos, resplendent in the vibrant hues of spring, whispered a promise of new beginnings. The air buzzed with anticipation, the hum of the city a constant reminder of the return to their individual okiya, their respective family houses where they would resume their duties, their individual journeys as Maiko and Geiko, enriched by the shared experience of the New Year. The break had been a time for rejuvenation, a moment of shared joy and tradition, a reminder of their interconnectedness, and now, they were ready to embrace the new year, the challenges and the triumphs, with renewed purpose and a shared spirit of artistry and grace.


During this special period, my geisha friends all dressed up in their most formal way, wearing a luxurious black kimono called kuromontsuki, a golden obi, red under-kimono, and having a special hairstyle especially for this occasion and the formal Sanbon-Ashi makeup (three lines on the back of their neck). During this festive period, they also wear signature hair ornaments made of turtle shells and a real rice stalk, signifying a long life of abundance.


This year, black is deemed a lucky color based on fengshui calculations because it represents the element of wealth/ prosperity which is sorely lacking in 2024's charts.


Okasan has invited me to join the ladies for this year's new year celebrations. As usual, we all want memorable portraits. So we did this portrait at one of the gardens in Kyoto, one that has a waterfall and some water elements.


The photo is actually a new year card I sent out earlier this year. It is also a top favourite with fans and curators of photo exhibitions.

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