Anthony Wood | Tokyo Headshot and Portrait Photographer


Thoughts, experiences, and photos of life and work in Japan by Anthony Wood | American Headshot and Portrait Photographer based in Tokyo, Japan

Traditions: Shinto Dance

In the late spring of last year, I spent the better part of a day out at a small Shinto shrine in rural Chiba Prefecture working on another addition to my personal project where I photograph people involved in certain cultural and traditional aspects of Japan. 

On this occasion I was photographing two women who had previously worked at Shinto shrines as miko. Miko, or shrine maidens, as they are called in English, fulfill a number of roles and responsibilities at the larger shrines that employ them. Included among these duties, and the focus of this shoot, is the performance of a type of sacred theatrical dance called mikomai (巫女舞).

Mikomai, not often seen by the average visitor to shrines, is not exactly a dance that's going to get your heart pumping. Performed by shrine maidens in their long formal robes, the dance doesn't include any quick or complicated movements. It's slow, methodical, and deliberate. Fortunately, this also makes it rather easy to photograph.

The shrine location, which was more of a last minute change than original part of the plan, worked out quite well for the shoot. This change however had meant that I was going to have to scrap all of the shots I had previously planned and create new ones as we went along.

This unscripted form of shooting is something that might have been a little more nerve-racking if on a paid shoot, but as it was a personal project being done on my own time there were virtually no consequences to completely screwing everything up (other than wasting everyone's time, of course). So, we spent the day moving around the shrine and trying different things with motion, lighting, and composition. 

All in all, I am quite pleased with what we came away with from the shoot. A big thanks to the two women who offered up a day of their time and their patience to help out.

Below you can find a few photos from the day.

Thanks for stopping by!

MIkomai - Anthony Wood ©2014.jpg
MIkomai - Anthony Wood ©2014.jpg
Mikomai - Anthony Wood ©2014
MIkomai - Anthony Wood ©2014.jpg
MIkomai - Anthony Wood ©2014.jpg