Eriha is a 17 year old maiko in the Gion district of Kyoto. Only her lower lip is painted red which shows this is in her first year in the profession. I was told that it normally takes three years as a maiko, before the girl become a geiko (geisha). As a young maiko her pinkish kimono and her hair ornaments were youthful and cute, but these will change to more formal designs as she gets older.
I had always presumed that “real” maiko and geisha didn’t use wigs, and that these were for the “tourist” maiko and geisha. It turns out I was half right. Maiko always use their own hair to create the ornate hairstyles. This means they still have to use special wooden pillows when they sleep. Most geisha, once they have graduated from maiko status, use wigs, and presumably are able to get a much better night’s sleep.
Cheers for the amazing photos and the details about the customs surrounding geisha and maiko!