Kyoto New Year

On the stone-paved streets of Gion, a quiet district in Kyoto lined with wood-latticed teahouses, photographers captured a striking tableau today: stiff black wigs, pinned with falling orchids; white-painted necks with stripes of skin left exposed. Here, dozens of geiko (Kyoto’s geishas) had gathered in front of a 19th-century theater to celebrate the New Year with traditional dances and rounds of hanafuda, a game played with flower cards—but we were transfixed, above all, by their elaborate hair and makeup. The women sported bright red lips and alabaster skin, drawn on with a painterly hand; dustings of sakura-pink shadow around the eyes; and jeweled ornaments struck into those architectural black buns. The effect was proof of the power beauty has to transport us through time—and halfway around the world.

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