The LittLe Deity
Naoyuki Ogino lived ten years in Mexico and his first photographic works, of an ethnological nature, explored his origins, depicting the lives of Asian people. His native Japanese culture has also led him to take an interest in the folklore of his country and to dedicate an important series to the geisha (A Geisha’s journey). His proposition for Neko Project was born from this particular body of work.
We are in Kyōto, in a geisha house. Naoyuki ogino explains:
“In Japanese, wakaokami means “the young landlady”. All the geiko (geisha in Kyōto) and maiko (apprentices) in this geisha house identify the cat as Wakaokami. this is truly expressing the hierarchy existing in this geiko house. Koyuki, the little snow coloured cat, is positioned above any geiko or maiko in the house.
The photographer adds that wakaokami can also mean “the young (or the little) deity”. cats hold a special place in Japan and Naoyuki Ogino refers here to his native land as the country of animism and polytheism, but also as a country rich in stories about apparitions and spirit but especially cat apparitions.
The photographer becomes more personal in his further comments:
“I feel that cats live in the in-betweenness, between many worlds, this life and afterlife. I feel that Japanese people also live in many worlds simultaneously, including this life and afterlife. I think this is why cats have been significant in Japanese culture. they are connect- ing us from one world to another.”
We then understand the importance of this little cat, Koyuki, who connects the world of the geiko to the spiritual world, the reality of Naoyuki Ogino to the other world. In the series submitted for Neko Project by the photographer, it is clear that the feline reigns not only over the domestic life of this geisha house but is also the little deity of the house.