In 1997 a fairly wretched novel called Memoirs of a Geisha was published, recounting a stylized version of geisha life in Kyoto. The film adaptation screened in 2005, setting the world aflutter with geisha mania – a fascination with the geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha), who dwell in relative secrecy. While they exist cloistered in small pockets throughout Japan, the cultural heart of the geisha tradition is in Kyoto – home to five hanamachi, “flower towns” as the geisha districts are referred to.
I bought the print shown here at a Kyoto shop famous for its silk-screened tenugui, thin cotton towels. The shop, Eirakuya, proudly proclaims its heritage … “since 1615″.
The coy figure is, I believe, a maiko, a geisha-in-training. Kanzashi (head ornaments) grace her skull. I saw the print hanging on the wall, and it called out to me. She is a stunner, is she not?
Gaikotsu (skeletons) make occasional appearances in Japanese prints, but the story behind this particular print escapes me. If anyone knows more about her, I would love to know. Enlighten me in the comments below.