< What is Maiko?>
Maiko is a female entertainer dressed in beautiful kimono like Geisha, who is trained in the Kyoto dialect, traditional Japanese arts, singing, and dancing. One example of Kyoto dialect is that they say "oh-ki-ni" instead of "a-ri-ga-to" which means "Thank you." Indeed it takes time for young Maiko trainees, most of them are nonnative Kyoto gilrs, to master unique Kyoto dialect with correct accent and intonation. Another fun example of traditional games started by Maiko/Geiko with their guests is "acchi-muite-hoi (Look this way) " which later came to be played by kids for fun.
< Why is Maiko so fascianating?>
Seeing is believing. In the 20th century there was a foreign millionaire falling in love with Maiko and got married after visiting Japan several times.
< Isn't Maiko Geisha?>
The word "Maiko" refers to so-called "Geisha" in other parts of Japan such as Tokyo's Asakusa, Kanazawa in central Japan, Fukuoka in the southern island of Kyushu. So it might be safely said that Maiko is Kyoto's Geisha.
< How to become Maiko>
Usually a girl aged 15 or 16 starts trainings as a maiko trainee. After nearly 1-year hard training, she becomes Maiko. Then Maiko becomes Geiko usually at the age of 20, after gaining plenty of experience as a Maiko for 3-4 years. So we might safely say it's like, say, yellowtails having different names as they grow.
< How can I see the differences between Maiko and Geiko?>
When it comes to their appearances: (1) Hair style: Maiko have their own hair done in a traditional Maiko style at an exclusive barbershop. On the other hand, Geiko wear a wig for the traditional Japanese hairstyle. (2) Kimono: Maiko wear a kimono with long obi (sash) hanging down from their back. By contrast, Geiko wear a kimono with short obi. Maiko's Kimono is very heavy, weighing about 10kg!! Their sash is as long as 6 meters!!
< Where's Maiko?>
There are five Kagai, or Maiko amusement places, in Kyoto. Four of them are located in the eastern part of Kyoto and the other in central Kyoto. One of the most popular districts is Gion, has long developed ever since 17th century in the east side of the Kamogawa River. It is said that there are about 100 Maiko/Geiko living in Gion, totally some 250 in Kyoto's five Kagai.
< Where do they live? What are their routines?>
In Gion district there are nearly 20 Machiya, or traditional Kyoto style houses for Maiko/Geiko to live. These Machiya exclusively for Maiko/Geiko are called Okiya, where in the morning they are trained dancing, singing, playing Japanese small drums, and samisen (3 stringed musical instrument) among others. Early-afternoon is for free activities. and the late-afternoon for preparation for the evening. They say that it takes 40 minutes to make-up. And they are called upon by their guests at a banquet hall, so-called Ochaya, around 6:00PM for dinner. Actually Maiko/Geiko don't eat dinner there with their guests, just enjoying coversation and pouring some sake/beer for their guests. After dinner they dance and enjoy playing traditonal games like "acchi-muite-hoi ( Look this way)" with their guests. After dinner/dancing/playing games, usually lasting about 2 hours, they go back to their Okiya and have dinner. It is said that there are about 70 Ochaya or banquet halls in Gion district, totally 150 in five Kyoto's kagai.
< Maiko in a jinrikisha or rickshaw >
< Maiko with a long sash hanging down from their back>
< Geiko at Kyoto Minamiza Kabuki Theatre >
<Maiko wearing kimono on a daily basis>
< Maiko enjoying autumn colors >
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