The beauty and daily life of Japan’s maikos (geisha apprentices) – a Japanese unique cultural trait – will be unveiled in a photo exhibition entitled “Secret Moments of Maikos” by French photographer Philippe Marinig.

Shot in Kyoto’s famous Gion quarter, Marinig’s images capture the grace and beauty of Japanese women in this age-old profession. Photo: Philippe Marinig

The photo exhibition (with English and Vietnamese caption) is on display from May 7 to June 6 at The Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam, No 27 Quang Trung street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi, which opens from 9am 6pm daily with free admission. 

Shot in Kyoto’s famous Gion quarter, Marinig’s images capture the grace and beauty of the women in this age-old profession.

Gaining access into the enigmatic world of Japan’s modern-day geishas is no easy task, but award-winning French photographer Philippe Marinig has managed to pull off just that. His photographs capture the apprentices during unguarded moments as they train in the art, which was established more than 300 years ago. 

The world of the geisha is still a mysterious one to most people, and that’s the way they like it. A geisha’s jobs consist of performing songs, dances, and playing the shamisen or other traditional Japanese instruments for visitors during banquets and parties, known as ozashiki.

Geisha is a Japanese unique cultural trait that dates back some 300 years ago. Photo: Philippe Marinig

Maikos are usually between 17 to 20 years old. When a girl decides she wants to be a geiko or geisha, she must find an okiya and okasan (“mother”, the proprietress of the okiya, also known as an okami-san) who will accept her.

Once accepted, she will study the performing and cultural arts required to work as a geisha on almost a daily basis. For example, she’ll learn the geisha dances, how to perform a tea ceremony, flower arranging, how to wear kimono, and how to play at least one music instrument. 

“I’m a man who likes a challenge. I think they saw me in a different light when I kept coming back,” the photographer told CNN. “It wasn’t only about the photography. I maybe used photography as an excuse to be part of their world for a moment.”

The grace and beauty of a geisha through the lens of Philippe Marinig

Philippe Marinig (1962) is a cross-cultured visual artist whose eyes and heart deeply plunge into profound localism. From his hometown in the South of France to Cape Town in South Africa, where he spends 20 years founding and directing the Picto agency, he dedicates his time to personal visual artworks since 2006.

All his works are dedicated to highlight the beauty of fragile, endangered, sometimes poorly known worlds. In 2010, he was awarded the Scam Roger Pic prize.