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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

The Geisha at the Waterfall 日本の芸者と滝

The Geisha at the Waterfall is my 2024 portrait for my Geisha friend Tomitsuyuu. We have known each other for 9 years now...time flies. Since her maiko days, this is one of the most popular Geisha in Kyoto. Every year, we meet up just around Christmas...but this year, Okasan has invited me to come to Japan during the New Year.

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.

In this year of the Dragon, 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.

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.

Waterfalls hold great symbolic importance in Japanese culture as they represent the connection between the mythical dragon figure and water, rather than fire. The ideogram for waterfall combines the meanings of water and dragon, suggesting the concept of a "water dragon" emerging from a slope. In traditional iconography, the dragon is depicted as spitting water and resembling a fish with scales, originating from a carp that successfully overcame obstacles to ascend the Yellow river waterfalls near the Dragon Gate, earning its transformation into an immortal dragon. In Shintoism, there is no distinction between Creator and Creation, and the deities (kami) seamlessly blend with nature. Natural elements like waterfalls, trees, rocks, and mountains are revered as kami and marked with a rope (shimenawa) to signify their sacredness. Waterfalls evoke astonishment and admiration, instilling a sense of subjection to the divine and sacred in humans, particularly through their powerful dynamics, vibrant colors, mist, and whirlpools.

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