I’ve always been lucky on my trips to Kyoto and nearly every single time, I’ve spotted a maiko. My trip up to Nara and Kyoto earlier this month was no different.
I had bumped into a lovely American couple in the Ninenzaka just a few hours before and was explaining to them the best places to spot a maiko or geisha on her way to an appointment. My sightings never seem to fall into line with my own advice, however – I’ve seen a geisha getting into a taxi in a back alley, a maiko clopping quickly from one doorway to another and even a cross-dressing geisha (no, don’t ask) on the other side of the river near the canal. Yeah, still not sure about that one.
But at 6pm on the dot, I was walking down Shijo-dori about half a block past the Hanamikoji intersection and boom! About ten feet in front of me, a group of tourists smacks right into the girl in the photo below. She elbowed her way through as we all kind of gaped at her and then hurried down the walk before crossing the street to southern Gion. She didn’t wait for the signal and yet there was absolutely no traffic in her way at all, giving me the unobstructed view that I managed to capture in my photo.
I love Japan for those moments. You can plan and lie in wait and pray to the high heavens that TODAY will be the day you see a maiko and yet there she is, when you least expect it, and it makes the moment even more uniquely special for the fact that you almost missed it.