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The Kyoto Photo Gallery by Jeremy Hoare and Chizuko Kimura

As we roam the internet for news, pictures and events surrounding the art of kitsuke and the geisha-culture, we sometimes stumble over real gems that we absolutely want to present to our audience. One of these gems is the Kyoto Photo Gallery by Jeremy Hoare and Chizuko Kimura.

The title basically gives it all away: Jeremy is a photographer with a profound love for Kyoto. When we asked him to introduce himself and his work to he gladly obliged (everything from Jeremy is written in cursive):

I am the English photographer Jeremy Hoare and with my Japanese partner Chizuko Kimura we live mostly in London and sometimes in Kyoto at the Kimura family home close to Shinnyodo Temple.

I first visited Kyoto on my own in 1987 and thought it was wonderful with all the amazing culture around. So it was fate that Chizuko came from there and we have visited many times since together.

Prior to 1991, when I became a fulltime freelance travel and portrait photographer, my career had been as television cameraman and lighting director working on mostly drama and light entertainment UK network and international programmes.

Chizuko came to London to learn Queen’s English in 1991 and we met at a Japan Festival event in Covent Garden. She is a kimono maker and Urasenke tea master and is often making or altering kimonos for clients in the UK. We have also performed tea ceremonies in many different places in the UK for a variety of clients.

I started taking photos from a very early age as my father would hand me his camera and get me to take them. Then he showed me how to process film and make prints in a darkroom; the magic of seeing a print come up slowly from a sheet of white paper is magic that can never be forgotten.

My whole professional life has progressed by creating images of one sort or another with almost all types of camera for audiences ranging from a single person for a personal photograph to billions with international TV programmes. But in many ways this is not so much a passion as an addiction and my photography workshops are entitled ‘Addicted to Light’ because of it. I also give TV Camera & Lighting workshops which Chizuko assists with and I have done these not only in the UK but also in Fiji, Brazil, Australia and the Philippines.

The idea for Kyoto Photo Gallery came to me after photographing the Jidai Matsuri one October a few years ago. I sat with a coffee in stylish Iyemon Café in Sanjo-dori close to Karasuma-dori and it popped into my head. It has taken time to get to where it is today and we continue to make adjustments. The website is being continually improved and we have had two KPG exhibitions so far, the first in London very close to the British Museum and the second in Kyoto close to the Heian Shrine torii gate, both places being iconic landmarks.

In 2015 we will attend Art Fairs in London and have another exhibition in Kyoto; we are planning for another London exhibition in 2016.


You can find his work from Kyoto directly at the Kyoto Photo Gallery Website. Other pictures and galleries can be found at Jeremy Hoare Photography. You can even order high quality prints of his pictures in the Kyoto Photo Gallery Print Shop. While not cheap, I can see myself hanging one or two of those on my own walls. You can also follow him on Facebook for fresh photos from Japan for your newsfeed.

‘KYOTO – city of dreams’ Kyoto Exhibition from Jeremy Hoare on Vimeo.

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What’s the difference between a Geisha, a Maiko and a Geiko?

Geisha or Maiko, Real or Fake? Learn the differences between them here!

You may have heard others talk about how they spotted geisha while travelling in Kyoto – but did they really see a geisha, or was it a maiko they saw instead? Or was it even a tourist who paid to dress up in a geisha outfit just for the experience? The differences may be subtle, but let’s see how you can distinguish between them. Let’s clairfy the differences between a geisha and a maiko and between a geisha and a geiko.

First of all:

Geisha vs. Geiko

Literally translating to ‘arts person’, geisha (芸者) are highly trained in Japanese traditional arts, including music, singing and dancing. By contrast, geiko (芸子) is primarily used to refer to geisha from Kyoto. Although geisha formerly referred to only those from Tokyo and its surrounding areas, it has now become the general term for all geisha.

Geiko vs. Maiko

Maiko (舞妓) translates to ‘dancing girl’ or ‘child’, and refers to apprentice geiko. They undergo about 5 years of training in various arts, before graduating to become geiko. Outside of Kyoto, the hangyoku (半玉) in Tokyo would be the closest equivalents to maiko. Hangyoku literally means ‘half jewel’ and are trainee geisha, although little is known about their training process. So summed up, the difference between geiko and maiko can be described as the difference between accomplished “master” of their art and an apprentice.

Now that we’ve clarified the terminology, what are the differences between geisha and maiko?

1. Hair style

Geishas usually wear a simple wig over their natural hair, usually in the typical style seen below. However, maikos style their own hair into elaborate arrangements that vary depending on the stage of training they are in.

Typical Geisha HairstyleA typical geisha hairstyle

Typical Maiko HairstyleOne of the several hairstyles that maiko sport during their apprentice stage

2. Hair accessories

Maikos wear several elaborate hair ornaments, or kanzashi, such as fan or ball-shaped ornaments and combs. There is also the hanakanzashi – an ornament with silk flowers dangling from the maiko’s head to her chin.  While this is one of the most recognisable hair ornaments, it is only worn during the first year Minarai stage of a maiko’s training.

In contrast, geisha wear simpler ornaments or decorative combs in their hair.

Typical Geisha Hair AccessoriesA set of kanzashi for the month of May, featuring purple irises and wisteria

Geisha MamehanaThe far simpler hair ornaments worn by a geisha

3. Make up

As maikos do not wear wigs, they will have a noticeable band of unpainted skin at their hairline. Their eyebrows will be coloured with red or pink, while their eyes will be outlined in red and black. First year maikos will have only their lower lip painted red, while maikos in the second year of training and beyond will have both lips painted. By comparison, as geishas normally wear wigs, there will not be any band of bare skin at their hairline. Their eyebrows will only have a touch of red, while their eyes are only outlined in black. Both their lips will be painted bright red.


4. Kimono

Maiko often wear brightly coloured, long-sleeved kimono with a wide obi or sash that is arranged into a bow at their back and extends to their feet. The collar of their kimono will hang low at the back of their neck and is thick and embroidered, containing only red, gold and white (or cream) colours. The geisha are older, hence wear more mature kimono, usually in solid colours and shorter sleeves. Their obi are narrower and tied in a square knot, while their collars are completely white and sit higher at the back of their neck.

Maiko and GeishaThe simple, shorter sleeved kimono with narrow obi worn by the geiko contrasts with the more elaborate outfit of the maiko

5. Footwear

Maiko normally wear very high okobo(おこぼ), or wooden sandals. Geisha wear shorter zori (草履) or geta(下駄), although maiko may also wear those on special occasions.

 Three Maiko and one GeishaThe footwear worn by the geisha on the right is far lower than that of the maikos


In addition, we found an explanation of the differences between maiko and geiko directly from a geiko:

Real Geisha vs. Tourist Maiko / Tourist Geisha

With those differences between geisha and maiko in mind, how do we tell whether a white painted-faced, kimono-clad person sporting a traditional hairstyle is actually a maiko or geisha, instead of a tourist dressed up as one in disguise? Here are some tell-tale signs:

1. Hair ornaments and makeup

As the long, dangly hanakanzashi is only worn by maiko in their first year of training, which corresponds to when they have only their lower lip painted red, a person wearing hanakanzashi with both lips painted is not the real thing.

Hana-Kanzashi on a tourist maikoA dress-up maiko with 3 tell-tale signs: ‘hana-kanzashi’ paired with both lips painted; the presence of colours other than red, gold and white on the collar; and the relative lack of red on the collar.

2. Time of day

Maiko and geisha start their workday in the evening, hence a person in full regalia in the middle of the day is most likely a tourist.

3. Location

As maiko and geisha hold celebrity status, they will usually avoid crowded places and tend to use the backstreets to get from place to place.

4. Photo-taking

Customers pay for the time required for maiko and geisha to get from place to place, hence they will not stop to take photos with tourists.

5. Walking

While the okobo worn by maiko can be very high and difficult to walk in, maiko are trained to be able to move around in them and will not require the assistance of others for balance.

6. Seasonal motifs

Geisha and maiko wear kimono with patterns that correspond to the seasons. Likewise, the motifs on their hair ornaments are aligned to the time of year too. If you see someone wearing an autumn kimono in spring, then she is most definitely a fake!

With all these in mind, you should now be able to easily distinguish between geisha and maiko, and between the real and the fake!

Although fake shouldn’t be seen with a negative connotation in this context. As we saw in Octavia’s Maiko Kimono Showcase, you can look good dressed up as maiko, even without working for an okiya in Kyoto!


The author of this article is Joanne, who is a former Osaka City JET whose love affair with Japan started when a friend in university asked to take a beginner’s Japanese language course together. Originally from Singapore, Joanne has been in Northern Ireland for two years but would love to live in Japan again. Joanne is the creator and current curator of rotation curation Twitter account @We_JapanShe has her own personal blog “Bits and Bobs”, where she writes about her personal interests, as well as traveling, Japan, ballet and living in Northern Ireland as a Singaporean.

If you now feel that you want to write for as well, just send us an email to with what you would like to write about or just directly send your posts/articles with some background information.

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Kimono Showcase: Yvonne’s Kimono Journey Part 2 – Kyoto – Arashiyama/Kinkakuji/Ryōan-ji

Episode 3.2 of our Kimono Showcase together with Yvonne

Part 2 of Yvonne’s kimono journey will bring us to Kyoto and some of its most beautiful places, after we have seen her go to Asakusa and the Imperial palace in the last episode.

She actually stayed there for two days and therefore had a chance to take pics in two kimono in many different places.

First stop: Kinkakuji

Ah yes, one of the two absolute “must-see” places in Kyoto. The Kinkakuji is a golden buddhist temple in the northwest of Kyoto and one of the most famous attractions of Kyoto, or maybe even of Japan. It’s surrounded by a small lake, which itself is surrounded by a lovely park, which itself is already worth a visit.

For this day, she decided to wear a pink furisode kimono and a fukuro obi which had embroidery of Kinkakuji on it, although the detail unfortunately can’t really be seen on the pics.




Getting stoned at Ryōan-ji

Let’s not stay too long at Kinkakuji, as I think it’s already well known amongst every Japan tourist and his dog, so let’s focus on a little bit lesser known places, which doesn’t mean that they are less interesting!

Stone gardens can be found in a lot of parks, castles, temples and so on, around Japan. Probably one of the most well-known is located in the “The Temple of the Dragon at Peace“, or Ryōan-ji (龍安寺). Established in 1499, Ryōan-ji is a Zen temple in the northwest of the city of Kyoto in the municipality Ukyō.

The garden consists of a surface (30 by 10 meters) of fine gravel with a just 15 seemingly randomly placed stones in 5 mossy groups. From no point in the garden all 15 stones are visible at the same time. The surrounding wall has been built with oil-soaked mortar. Over the centuries, the oil from the stone has leaked and has left a characteristic pattern on the stone.



Run Forest, run!

Alright, enough with the bad puns. You might have figured that the next location has something to do with a lot of trees. Not normal trees though, it’s the bamboo forest of Arashiyama. Arashiyama has a bit more to offer: Kameyama-koen Park, the Tenryu-ji Temple, the Okochi-Sanso Villa and many other things. But the bamboo grove surely is the main attraction.




Kyoto in motion

If you want to see more of the just mentioned places in and around Tokyo, take a look at the following two videos. If you didn’t absolutely want to visit Kyoto before, you will definitely after watching.


We’re not done yet with Yvonne’s journey in Kyoto! Keep your eyes open for the next episode in Kyoto and our last episode in Osaka & Nara.

If you now feel that you want to share your pictures as well, just send us an email to with what you would like to showcase here or just directly send your pictures with some background information.

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Kobe: 2nd multi-cultural exchange and kimono flea market on Nov. 16th 2014

Kimono Méli-Mélo Marché Market

Are you living in Kobe and are still free this Sunday? Because if so, you shouldn’t miss this event!

The kimono group “和だんすごっこ” (Wadansu gokko, which roughly means: get-together to dance in traditional Japanese clothing) organizes a big kimono flea market / bazaar, together with a multi-cultural exchange event. Something you shouldn’t miss, especially from this group.

Wadansugokko Kimono Bazaar
Picture from last year’s bazaar

This group is actively promoting Japanese culture, especially the tradition of wearing a kimono (the right way!), towards other Japanese people and foreigners visiting or living in Japan. Their activities range from shootings in kimonos at beautiful sightseeing spots, organizing kimono parties, to organizing kimono wearing lessons. Although I was informed by them, that participation is exclusive to students of the Kobe University and their family. Let’s take a look at some of their previous activities:

Indonesian Kimono Group
Kimono wearing event with Indonesian guests
Indonesian girls in kimono and with hijab
Good to know for Indonesians: You can combine a hijab with a kimono!
Yukata firework event
Yukata wearing “hanabi” firework event
kimono obi teacher
The teacher is showing how to bind an obi correctly.
kimono binding lesson
Everyone is fully concentrated!


But back to the event on November 16th: The event is held at a place called “Fukae Hall”, close to the Hanshin Fukae station or the JR Konanyamate station. The following map should be useful:

If you need the full adress for your navigation device, here you go:


The original (Japanese) invitation can be found here: 第2回多文化交流着物フリマ&バザーを開催します

Beginning is 10:30, so you better get up early! It already ends at 15:30, so there is enough time. Could be hard for some people, who prefer to sleep in on a Sunday though. But I surely would set my alarm extra for this event a bit earlier than normal!

You can follow the group on Twitter as well. Their account is called @wadancewadance

I hope lots of you find their way there and enjoy what this great group has prepared for you in Kobe, which has more to offer than just Kobe beef!