Essays : Yulia's Voyage to Japanese Art

Evening in Kyoto
Kurihara Gyokuyo
Evening in Kyoto

Color on silk, with a box signed and sealed by the artist
128×41㎝ / 197×53㎝

vol.06 Kurihara Gyokuyo, Evening in Kyoto

In this column, I would like to put a spotlight on Kurihara Gyokuyo’s work “Evening in Kyoto”.

Actually, I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know Kurihara Gyokuyo, but during her lifetime, it seems that Gyokuyo was known as one of the best female painters alongside Uemura Shoen.
Born in Nagasaki in 1883, she was active mainly in Tokyo, and, although she died in 1922 at the young age of 40, she was a very popular painter with many disciples.

As the title “Evening in Kyoto” suggests, this work depicts a maiko (an apprentice geisha) in dusk at Kyoto.
I believe the season was around May or June. You might notice how maple leaves floating in running water decorate the hem and the bottom of her kimono (susohiki). The maiko’s iris patterned “Darari no Obi” (long draping sash) is a classic May to June motif.
In addition, even now when compared to geisha, maikos are made to give a more “obokoi” (young) impression through their kimonos, and this work illustrates this. A child’s kimono is generally made larger, by “shoulder raising” or “hem raising”, with the fabric sewn short and the size adjusted according to the child’s growth. The “shoulder raising” seen sewn up around the shoulders of this maiko is evident.
Then there is the striking red collar, which is also a maiko characteristic. When a maiko becomes a geisha, her collar changes to a white one. There are various other areas that change besides the collar, but this red collar is so symbolic of maikos that becoming a geisha is called “erigae” (changing collars). Her hairstyle, “ofuku”, is also a hairstyle unique to maikos.

At dusk in Kyoto, with the onset of early summer heat, I wonder if Gyokuyo painted this work because she thought it was cute to see a sitting maiko wearing a heavy kimono sitting and fanning herself.

Mademoiselle Yulia

Mademoiselle Yulia rose to prominence as a DJ and singer in her teens. In recent years, she has grown widely active as a kimono stylist, model, columnist, awards judge, and has become the face of numerous global campaigns of widely known brands. Yulia graduated from Kyoto University of the Arts in 2020 and styled the visual campaign for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition, Kimono -Kyoto to Catwalk-.