All posts tagged: gion

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. 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. 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 …

Geisha in the Rain

It’s raining, but you’ve still got to go to work. So you grab your umbrella and book a cab for yourself and a couple of workmates. The taxi arrives.  The driver helps to keep your clothes dry as you get in the vehicle. Cherry blossom covers the trees. Ready to go, the evening awaits.

Eriha the Maiko

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.