Japan, Pentax k-1, Photography
Comments 3

Geisha, Geiko and Maiko

What’s the difference between a geisha and a maiko? How do you tell them apart?

A geisha, 芸者, is a professional entertainer, the direct translation of the kanji would be art person.  Geiko 芸子 is sometimes used when referring specifically to geisha from Kyoto.

A maiko 舞妓  is a geiko in training. This process takes many years as she masters the various instruments, dances and social graces required to become a geiko.


Geiko walking down Pontocho Street, Kyoto

Along with their age, there are other ways to distinguish maiko from geiko.

The hairstyle of a maiko is created with natural hair, while a geiko wears a wig. A maiko usually has many more ornate accessories that adorn her hair.

For footwear, maiko usually wear okobo (platform sandals) while the geiko wear zori (low sandals).

The inner collar of the kimono is usually red with patterns for maiko and plain white for geiko.


Maiko walking along Pontocho Street

And when looking from the back, the obi of the geiko is folded to form a box knot (taiko) while the maiko have the obi folded in a longer elaborate display  known as darari.


Maiko walking along Pontocho Street.

In the image above, I like the expression on the lady’s face as she looks up at the maiko passing by.


Geiko getting into a taxi on Kiyamachi Street

All images shot with the Pentax K-1 with the 24-70mm f2.8 lens. A great combination for street shooting.






  1. the one who writes says

    I’ve been to Japan once. But it had been a long time ago and this is something to remind me of those memories. Also some new info. 👍👍

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