Geisha in Gion

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With our technology, consumerism and relentless obsession with talentless celebrities, the geisha in Kyoto arguably seem even more out of place than ever. Odd, almost ghost-like figures who effortlessly weave through the narrow, tourist-filled streets of their native Gion – their sporadic outings greeted with a mixture of giddy glee and hushed reverence. Neither of which are in any way surprising considering the geishas’ scarcity and history. Not to mention of course their incredible outfits and otherworldly appearance.

Japanese geisha in Kyoto

Yet for me at least it’s not their elegance or overall look that really sticks in the mind, but the surprisingly rapid clip-clop of traditional geta, plus the briefest glimpse of a painted neck, as they dash past on the way from one appointment to another.

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A Setsubun lantern procession in Asakusa

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The traditional Setsubun ceremony is performed at countless temples across Japan on February 3rd — an event that involves throwing beans to dispel devils and bring good fortune. At Asakusa’s famous Sensoji Temple, however, the main event is also preceded by a lantern-bearing procession. A custom that may not bring luck or banish evil, but it does make for quite a spectacle.

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