Janne Robberstad

Welcome to my site! I work as an eco-designer, an artist, as a teacher and as a researcher, and creating, or ARTING as I prefer, makes me happy! This is both a portfolio of things I´ve made and a blog meant to inspire.

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Kyoto – geisha-spotting

By spotogspindel | October 17, 2016

Today I visited the Nishijin textile centre & museum. They had their own kimono-fashion-show, a weavery and a big museum-shop. The best part however, was the dress-up-like-a-Japanese photo-shoot. I choose the more-is-more version of the 12 layered wedding-kimono! Full on with wig and makeup and the works. 12 layers of heavy silk over a pair of wide trousers that are 2 meters long… it does´t make it easy to move.


From now on, this will be my official portrait! Ha, ha, ha… no, I´m just kidding. But it is nonetheless probably the closest I´ll get to my 5-year-old self of becoming a princess.


I had two women doing my makeup and dressing me. I thought it was interesting to see how the inner clothing was, and how everything was arranged as they added layers.


Dressed as a bride for her adding, or even resembling an imperial princess. But not a geisha. So when the photo-session was over, I visited an indigo weavers atelier. No geishas, but hand-dyed silk yarn.


From there I went on to the Shibori museum. Shibori is a 1300 hundred years old tradition of dyeing. By tying tiny knots on the silk cloth with fine thread, you make a resist the dye won´t penetrate when the fabric is lowered into the dye-pan. You can make amazing patterns, but it requires a vast amount of work. The picture below is showing half of a picture it took 40 people 2 years to make (on their free-time) Oh, and I got to try on a shibori/embroidered silk kimono. But still no geishas…


So in the evening I joined a geisha-spotting-tour, which sounds a bit silly, but we learned a lot of history and tradition. And got to walk around in the Gion-district, which houses some of the oldest, well-known tea-houses in Japan.


And guess what?! We finally spotted a real life geisha! Coming out from a theatre after her performance, rushing past everyone at an impressive speed on her 5 inch (12 cm) high wooden sandals. On her way to a private party at a tea-house. With at least 5 years of training, this tradition has seen a small upswing in recruitment the past years, after years of decline.


Now there are around 200 geishas in Kyoto, and 80 maikos (apprentices). They start their training at 15, and after 5 years become a geisha. They can stay a geisha as long as they don´t marry, and the oldest one is over 90 years old!

Oh, and if you thought that a geisha was a prostitute, you are wrong! It is forbidden to touch them. They are great entertainers who sing and dance and make great conversation-partners.

Topics: Diverse, travel | No Comments »