At junior high school, Hanayo was given an Olympus half-frame camera by her father and from around 1989 she began photographing happenings around her and people she met. At high school she modeled for the novel *Tokyo Tongari Kids* serialized in culture magazine Takarajima. At nineteen she trained as a geisha and reached an icon status with appearances on Japanese TV and stage, and even abroad where she adorned the cover of British magazine *The Face* in geisha mode. Throughout these varied explorations she continued photographing and in 1996, when she moved to London, made her official debut as a photographer with the book *Hanayome*, noted for its vivid, vibrant images. After moving to Berlin in 1999 she met filmmaker Christoph Schlingensief and  appeared in several of his theater and performance pieces. In 2002 she had a solo exhibition "Hanayo" at Palais de Tokyo, Paris.

Daido Moriyama, who visited her solo exhibition at Takaishii in 1996, said that he was "jealous of photographs by someone else for the first time".

In 2010, Hanayo moved back to Tokyo, where she continues to present new work.