Young Maiko

Kyoto is the centre for Geisha, locally known as Geiko, and Maiko.  there is some confusion as to what these women do, and which ones have white faces.


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Two Maiko

Maiko are the ones who paint their faces white, these are trainee Geisha. In their first year they only have one lip painted red, then they have full make up, but on changing from Maiko to Geisha they stop having the white face paint, and use more natural make up.

 

 

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A First year Maiko with one red lip


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The Maiko’s nape exposed

The nape is considered to be very alluring in japan, so the Maiko have low collars at the back of the neck with a pointed area of bare skin below their hairline.


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Maiko on her way to an appointment

Their job is to become accomplished at music, the tea ceremony, and conversation. They are employed mainly to entertain at smart dinners. When you see a Maiko on the street she is usually going off to an appointment so is in a hurry, and doesn’t want to stop for tourists to take photos. Their fees are charged by the hour, in the old days it was called “incense money” as it was how long it took to burn an incense stick.

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Maiko being Driven to Appointment

In Gion we saw a few Maiko disappear from smart cars into a grand restaurant, then a massive sumo wrestler and his minder went in too. Geisha can go on working into old age, but they must leave the profession if they marry.

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Gion Corner theatre Curtain

Also some work as dancers and musicians, particularly in the Gion corner theatre.

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Fans on The Theatre Curtain

We went to the theatre on the first day of this season’s Cherry Blossom Dance.

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Geisha Musicians at Gion Theatre

Senior Geisha sat playing samisens and singing on the right side of the stage, and younger Maiko sat with percussion on the left.

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Maiko sat with percussion
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The First Divine Couple

The play is more like an opera, in that the story is sung, though only by off-stage singers, while actor-dancers act out the roles in mime. The story took us through all the seasons and referred to the first divine couple, Izanagi and Izanami, from the Shinto creation story.

 

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The Cherry Blossom Dance

In the finale all the dancers come onto the stage to celebrate the Cherry Blossoms.


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Tribute Maiko

Numbers are dwindling, there were about 80,000 Maiko and Geisha in the 1920s but now it’s though to be only between 1 and 2 thousand.

On the streets there are also a lot of tribute “Maiko” who are made up and dressed up correctly  by businesses specialising in this MAIKOVER. One of the give aways, apart from their age, is that they can’t walk properly in the woobden platform shoes real Maiko wear.

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Mother and Daughter Tribute Maiko
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