Like numerous people living in or visiting Kyoto, one of my favorite photography subjects are the beautiful maiko, or apprentice geisha. Sure, there are a number of ways to catch a photo of one of them walking down a street, but this is more than uncertain — good luck as well as a good dose of patience are always necessary.
Another easy solution to capture beautiful photos of maiko or geiko (the way geisha are called in Kyoto), is to participate to a public or private photo shoot. Because of the increasing demand, more and more of these photo shoots are being regularly organized in Kyoto. They often take place in beautiful locations, historical houses or areas of temples specially open for the occasion.
One of the issues facing foreigners is how to find out about these? The language is, of course, the first problem as all the information published is always in Japanese. But once you find out about these, not speaking Japanese is not such a big deal. There is always someone able to communicate in English among the organizers. And more often than not, a photographer usually does understand what another photographer wants or needs.
Here are a few web pages of people, association or company organizing such photo shoots. You probably can ask a Japanese-speaking friend, or use an online translation system to find out about the detail.
Flower Tourism: http://55maiko.net/
Maria Publication: http://maria-publ.com/event/
Photo Partner Kyoto: http://www.photo-kyoto.jp (currently unavailable)
Here are some photos from a recent photo shoot… Click on any thumbnail for a full screen display of the photos.