Kinkaku-ji Temple, the Golden Pavilion under snow in Winter

Entrance – Introduction

The Story behind this exhibition

Patrick Hochner began taking photographs in his native Alsace (France) when he was 14, using the family bathroom as his darkroom. At about the same time, he became interested in traveling and has visited over 100 countries, combining his passion for photography with travel. Arriving in Japan in the late 1970s, he has since called Japan home for over 30 years. He and his wife Akiko have fallen in love with Kyoto, the old imperial capital, though they spend half their time in Nice in France. Patrick is currently documenting Kyoto’s Kagai geisha districts. This photo exhibition is just a glimpse of that journey that he is pleased to share with you.

It all began in early 2014. We had found an old machiya south of Gojo Street and started to renovate it. Like most newcomers to Kyoto, we often went to the Gion or Shijo area, and for this, we liked to go through that street called Miyagawa-cho, mainly because it was traditional and pretty, and there were no cars.

On that street, I saw some beautiful and elegant young women, dressed in gorgeous kimono and made up in a very special way. In the beginning, I just didn’t know who they were, but I soon learned they were maiko or geisha apprentices and geiko (geisha) walking around on an errand or on their way to meet their patrons for the evening.

I was not alone in looking at them as there were usually other people who obviously knew where to be, at what time, and what to expect. I often met the same people, fellow photographers, and we started to sympathize and communicate. This is how I began to learn about the Kagai, or flower town, a world of beauty and elegance, full of secrets and mysteries, and about the geiko and the maiko. I got into the habit of walking around Miyagawa-Cho as often as I could, with my camera. I was captivated and the discovery and visual capture of this secret world became a passion.

I spent countless hours walking around the Kagai, learning when and where the public events were taking place, and attending misedashi and erikae, aisatsu mawari, and other public events. I’ve made numerous new friends with the same interest and we shared the latest gossip and information. I got used to joining public photoshoots and after a while, I was able to organize my own private photoshoots and join private events.

I am especially grateful to all these young women who have dedicated their youth and mind to their arts in order to provide us with the pleasure of watching them dance, speak or just be.

I hope you’ll enjoy looking at these photographs.