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Sada Yoko, Kyotography, Hinoki Lab

Publié le octobre 25 2021

Sada Yaco (Sadayakko Kawakami) was born into a wealthy family in 1871. When Sada was four years old, Sada was sent to work as a maid at the Hamada geisha house in the Yoshicho district. Three years later, Hisajiro died, leading the Hamada's proprietress Kamekichi to adopt Sada as her heir. While with them, she learnt all the traditional arts: the tea ceremony, flower arranging, singing and, above all, dancing and theatre. "In the winter of 1883, at the age of twelve, the child celebrated her debut as an o-shaku, literally 'a sake pourer,' an apprentice geisha. She also received her first geisha name. From now on she was to be Ko-yakko or Little Yakko, named after a geisha named Yakko who had been one of the most adored in Tokyo. Kamekichi felt sure that Little Yakko would grow up to be as brilliant a star in her turn.

To make sure that Koyakko's career would blossom, Kamekichi sent her to a Shinto priest to learn how to read and write. This was revolutionary for several reasons. Women's education in Japan was only just starting- the first women's school (for noblewomen only) did not open until 1870. "Geisha were expected to be modern, trendsetting women, but such a skill put Sada ahead of the crowd". Koyakko also took secret lessons in judo, and learned how to ride horses and play billiards.

After becoming the Prime Minister’s mistress at just 15 thanks to her beauty and the magnificence of her shows, she met her husband, actor Kawakami Otojiro, with whom she would open a theatre in Tokyo. After three years (1888) the Prime Minister released Yakko from being his mistress, though he remained her friend and advisor.

Sada Yacco performed with her husband in Japan, often appearing as a man, in various theatres around the country. Due to her husband’s constant financial difficulties, they traveled constantly, eventually the ended up with a theatre troupe in the USA. From there they toured Europe and her fame grew into legend. She used the fact that she was once a Geisha and played on other aspects of western fantasies about Japanese in a way that fascinated westerners. A very strong and clever woman that famously interacted with many artists of the time.

One of the few remaining photos of Sada Yacco was taken by Pablo Picasso. Debussy took inspiration from her when composing music. During the ‘Japanism’ movement, Sada Yacco acted as idol and muse for French artists. She also experienced commercial success: Guerlain, surfing on the wave of her fame, created the perfume ‘Yacco’ in homage to her. During this period, the young woman launched her own range of cosmetics and kimonos, sold in a boutique in her name not far from the Opéra Garnier in Paris.

Her artistry with makeup, drawing on the geisha tradition, imposed another form of beauty, far from the quest for a natural look that persists in Europe: instead, she favoured red lipstick, a thick base and black accents around the eyes. Parisian women adored her and were inspired by her way of living. She returned the compliment and, in an interview for Femina magazine, declared: ‘Everything suits them, everything makes them look deliciously pretty, they extract the best from all that surrounds them… Everything, in Paris, has exquisite taste. Every Parisian is an artist, even if not by profession.’

Kyotographie Festival in Kyoto 

"KYOTOGRAPHIE Kyoto International Photo Festival" is one of the few international photo festivals in Japan, held in Kyoto, one of the world's leading cultural cities. Kyoto has been a source of cutting-edge culture while preserving tradition for a thousand years. 

Kyoto, where important works from Japan and overseas and valuable photo collections are expanded into quaint historical buildings and modern modern and contemporary architectural spaces, sometimes in collaboration with traditional craftsmen and cutting-edge technology. We aim to create a unique photo festival.

Although Japan is leading the world in camera and printing technology, "photograph" seems to have a low reputation as an expression medium in Japan. Focusing on this, they set up an international festival to look at the possibility of "photograph" as a means of expression, and vowed to realise it in the city of tradition and innovation "Kyoto" that the world is paying attention to.

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