Accidental photographer assistant of a Geisha shoot in Gion

This is a detailed post of my 2 weeks long solo backpacking trip to Japan. Please see a preview and itinerary/index of my complete trip on this post.

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Day 4 – Kyoto

Lost my only Jacket, well almost

I stayed till late in Shijo Dori last night. I just did not want to leave that serene setup. As a result, I was returned quite late for sleeping. Anyways I only had one shrine (Kodaiji) to see today, so I decided to start a bit late. I started at 8:30 from my hostel. All shrines on the east hill are near to Shijo Dori or Gion area and can be easily walked. A fifteen minutes walk from Shijo Dori towards Kodaiji takes me to Gion district. Gion-shijo station is the nearest station to Higashiyama district. I already had a bus pass for the day but I preferred to walk (as always). Kodaiji was the only shrine left in my list from eastern hills area.

I was having a leisure walk along narrow lanes of Higashiyama and enjoying the heritage of Kyoto. Narrow lanes and wooden shops/houses had an old world charm. Actually, this charm makes Kyoto much better than Tokyo for me. Anyways I was not too inclined to spend many days in Tokyo, as seeing high rise building was not on my list.

My brunch for the day was rice dumplings again. Lady who was selling dumpling knew very little English but good enough to confirm that there was no pork (nonveg) in dumplings. Five dumplings at and I was good to survive for another long day. I dropped my jacket in front of the stall and moved ahead. After a fifteen I realized I have lost my jacket. Terribly disappointed I headed back to her in hope that she must have secured it if it fell near her shop. Thankfully I got my jacket back. It fell right in front of her stall while I was keeping my camera inside my sling bag. Luckily she noticed it and kept it in her shop.

A Japanese lady selling dumplings, who saved my jacket

A Japanese lady selling dumplings, who saved my jacket

I had borrowed the jacket from my friend Abhishek. So losing his jacket would have been a double loss for me. Anyways I decided to wear the jacket from now on even if it is sunny. Losing anything is the last thing I wanted on this trip. I was carrying very limited and only daily use stuff.

अँधा क्या चाहे ? दो ऑंखें (What does a blind man want? two eyes)

I was clicking some random fancy faces in the crowd and cherry trees. Out of nowhere, I saw a lady dressed as a Geisha (Geisha (芸者 ?) are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various arts such as classical music, dance, games, and conversation). I noticed a professional photographer walking along with her and an assistant holding a few props. My first guess was they were shooting for some magazine perhaps or advertisement!


It’s okay, I am tourist, and that gets me a license to click anyone 😉

I clicked a few shots of Maiko on the road without being discrete. They did not feel annoyed. I think models are used to of this. I followed them in a small shrine-like establishment where the lady dressed in black was directing and clicking. I also clicked a few images without interrupting anyone. Looking at the various props her assistant it was pretty clear they were going to shoot at few more locations. I wanted to join them. How to talk them into allowing me to tag along? Okay, I approached the assistant and tried talking to him.

Me: Hi, I am from Singapore. A travel photographer. Looks like this is a professional shoot?
He: puzzled, confused… $%^*%$) No English…, No English…

Bam!!! he doesn’t understand a single word (of English). Seeing me talking to her assistant, lady photographer approached me. By now I think she also guessed I wanted to click her model

Me: Hi, I am from Singapore. A travel photographer. Looks like this is a professional shoot?
She: Yeah, it is. I run a photography company.
Me: (Great she can understand English)
That’s great to know. I like the way you have being directing this shoot. You are very experienced (ladies like appreciation, isn’t it?)
She: Yeah, I have been doing it for few years now.
Me: Do you mind if I tag along for a while? I will not intrude your shoot. Would you like to have some chocolates from Singapore? (And here I give all of them three energy bars. Who doesn’t like chocolates?)
All of them takes chocolates.
She: (talks to her model in Japanese, I don’t understand a word) Yeah sure you can join us.
Me: That’s so cool. let me help you (and I take small aluminum platform she was carrying)
She: Its okay I can carry it (laughs)
Me: I am your second assistant for the day (Everyone laughs)

This was how I joined the team as an assistant photographer for the shoot. What an uneventful day I was having just before I met these guys. Shoot lasted for more than one hour and I got lot of opportunity to shoot the model at various places and with different props. All photos shot in natural light. Only a silver reflector was used. As it was a bright day but not too sunny, natural light was bit diffused and good enough for portraits. I was on cloud nine after the shoot. Here are some of the shots I managed to click before shoot ended.


Maiko’s ozashiki hana kago, is a silken hand bag with box. One of our prop.

My favorite shot!

My favorite shot!



Along sakura lined trees


Another angle




My team for the day

My team for the day. Thanks to the lovely lady who allowed me to tag along.

Note, to my photographer friends, you may observe each photograph has a different color grading. This is purely intentional and that’s just how I like it!

Bidding good bye to all of them, I made my way along the narrow lanes crossing small shrines of Higashiyama.

Next Post -> Kodaiji Temple

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