Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Maiko and Geiko

Today's topic is one of my favorite: maiko and geiko. Maybe you know maiko. I have long been attracted by maiko and geiko. (In Kyoto, geisha is called geiko.)
Yesterday I happened to find this book at the library. The title is "The KYOTO Gokagai"or "The Kyoto five kagai" by Hiroshi Mizobuchi. It is a photo book featuring the annual events geiko and maiko are supposed to attend.

Kagai is the term Kyoto people use for the districts where the geiko and maiko practice the high-class arts that have made their beauty and refinement legendary the world over. The most famous kagai is Gion. In the kagai world, people still keep the traditional strict rules, and in a sense, it is a very restricted world. There is a unique rule: Formal restaurants in Gion are available for only the people who are introduced by their guest. I hope to visit such a restaurant in the future where maiko and geiko perform Japanese traditional dance and music. But if you like to see real maiko, Gion Corner is a good choice.
Gion Corner, a unique theater which presents 1-hour shows of seven traditional performing arts of Kyoto, including the heart of Kyogen classical comedy, Kyomai dance by maiko, Gagaku Imperial Court music, koto (Japanese harp) , flower arrangement, and Tea ceremony. And since explanations are given in English, it is popular among foreign tourists.

What is the difference between maiko and geiko?  This picture shows clearly. These beautiful women serve tea at the tea ceremony event. You can see ladies wearing colorful kimono with long sleeves (right). They are maiko, who are apprentice geiko ( around 16 yrs to 20).  And two ladies left who wear more subdued kimono with short sleeves are geiko (21 yrs~).

There are several hairstyles that a maiko wears, that mark the different stages of her apprenticeship.
Maiko uses her real hair for her hairstyle, while geiko wears a wig.

These are maiko's hair ornaments. Every month they wear a different ornament which reflects the season. For example, in February, they wear ume apricot design. (the left end of the second row)

Three maiko and one geiko attend the seasonal festival.

This is a picture of "changing collar ceremony" when maiko graduates to full-fledged geiko, exchanging her embroidered, red collar for a plain white one.
The picture left below shows a professional male dresser fixes up for geiko, because it takes strength to tie a broad sash.
I can say women in the kagai society are some of the most successful businesswomen in Japan.

I want to add one more. Recently tourists, not only Japanese but also from abroad, can experience maiko style for around 10.000 yen.  You can see fake maiko every day in Gion and its surrounding area.


  1. Such a interesting lovely to know about it,,
    Beautiful pictures and lovely costumes,,
    Big hugs
    Have a lovely day xxx

  2. I really like their hair ornaments. Are they always floral, no birds or butterflies?

    1. Hi, Ekaterina. Mainly maiko's hair ornaments are floral, but please look at the fourth picture carefully. The first one for the New Year's Day a white bird is lying on rice ear and for December there is colorful decoration of rice cake.

  3. Such interesting culture. Thanks for letting us know about the difference.

  4. Annie, the Geisha is one of the most enduring icons of Japanese culture and one that stirs the imagination of Westerners the world over. It was fascinating to read your blog post today and it has certainly made me want to learn more about these traditions that you describe.

  5. Very intersting? But they are more white then Europian woman. I like your color!