Maiko (apprentice geisha, dancing girl) (舞妓)

The term "Maiko" refers to a young geisha or a geisha apprentice. "Maiko" is the name used in Kyoto Prefecture (also in Osaka, and Nara Prefectures, etc). It corresponds to "Hangyoku (child geisha, apprentice entertainer)" or "Oshaku (person pouring alcohol for guests or customers)" in the Kanto region. Because the term, "Geisha," is used in Edo (old name for Tokyo), it needs to be distinguished.

Maiko in Kyoto
The Maiko who performs dancing in Kyoto
The "Maiko (舞妓)" was written as "Maiko (舞子)" in past times, and she learned customer service skills at ozashiki (banquets in which guests were attended by geisha) at the age of 9 - 12 and stood on her feet through the training of entertainment, but now no young girls can become Maiko until she graduates junior high school in accordance with the revision of the Child Welfare Act and the Labor Standards Law after the war.

Usually, after a 'training' period from a half to two years, Maiko wear a sash of 'Handarari,' which is half as long as darari no obi (long draping sash) as 'an apprentice' for a month and trains herself with senior geisha at a tea house. If admitted by the mistress of the geisha dwelling and the tea house association, she can debut as a new Maiko ('Misedashi'). At ozashiki and on the stage both geisha and Maiko are heavily-powdered with Shironuri (white makeup), but while a geisha usually wears a wig, Maiko dresses her hair in traditional Japanese style and wears a gorgeous ornate hairpin, tsumami-kanzashi (a decorative hair pin) featuring something like flowers of each season. The hair style of Maiko at the early stage is 'wareshinobu,' which turns to be 'Ofuku' in a few years later, and 1 - 4 weeks before erigae (promoted to a full-fledged geisha) she dresses 'sakko fashion (Maiko's hairstyle)' and puts teeth black (she does not paint eyebrows, which can be regarded as the custom of Hangempuku (attaining womanhood informally) continuing still now). Many Maiko are promoted to full-fledged geisha around the age of 20.

In accordance with the public stance that she is an apprentice because she is young, Maiko surely wears a long-sleeved kimono pulled in a tuck at the shoulders and sleeves. Since Maiko wear gaudy costumes such as Pokkuri (Koppori or 'Okobo' in Kyoto, girl's lacquered wooden clogs) and darari no obi, it could be said that Maiko is a more representative figure at red-light districts in Kyoto and vicinity, rather than geisha. Maiko is mainly in charge of dancing at ozashiki and performs the dancing of Kyomai Inoue school in Gion Kobu district and other dancing such as the Wakayagi school in other districts. She is trained to use the Kyoto dialect without regard to her origin, and consequently, Maiko is often treated as if she is a symbol of Kyoto.

The main business is entertainment at a tea house, but recently other business such as TV appearance, visiting care facilities or hospitals and going abroad are increasing. The red-light district which was a closed space of 'No first-time customers' seemed to have gradually opened its doors to outsiders.

In fact, it is said that some geisha dwellings which have no Maiko are recruiting applicants for Maiko through the Internet.

At present it is the five red-light districts of Gion Kobu, Miyagawa-cho, Gion Higashi, Ponto-cho, and the Kamishichiken districts, where there are Maiko in Kyoto. The number of applicant for Maiko is increasing, partly because of the recent boom. However, a girl who becomes a disciple of Maiko only because of her yearning feelings often resigns, because she can not bear the old-fashioned severe training of the feudalistic red-light district. Therefore, it is future task how to keep highly qualified Maiko and geisha in the red-light districts.

The Maiko outside Kyoto

In Sakata City (Yamagata Prefecture) there are young geisha who are called Maiko, written as '舞娘,' but their costumes are different from those of Maiko in Kyoto.

In Yamagata City there are also Yamagata maiko who are the same as above. They also appear in the Hanagasa-matsuri Festival.

In the area of Awara-Onsen Hot Spring in Awara City, Fukui Prefecture, a Maiko appeared three years ago for the first time in 38 years. At present there are two Maiko. They wear the same dress as the Maiko in Kyoto with Hikizuri no kimono and darari no obi, but they have wigs instead of doing their own hair (sometimes they have their hair done up).

The red-light district in Genrinin-cho, Nara City, has continued somehow and there are only 14 geisha including one new Maiko (with the same kimono of Maiko in Kyoto) who appeared on May 28, 2006. The Maiko puts on Ohiki no furisode (long-sleeved Kimono), darari no obi, Hana kanzashi (flower featured hair pin) on her hair dressed to Japanese coiffure of Kyoto style and Okobo, which are the same as those of Maiko in Kyoto.

In Osaka City there were Maiko before the war. Their characteristics were like the way of a winding sash was Tateya (vertical arrow) like female servant (a winding way called 'Yagiccha'). In addition, their hair style was not Hikibin (a style of sideburns) of the Kyoto style, but was Dashibin (a style of sideburns) from the Edo style. In the Kitashinchi district there is presently a movement to restore Maiko.

In the area of Arima-Onsen Hot Spring in Kobe City, new recruits after finishing high school are called Maiko (Hangyoku). They wear Kimono of Tsume sode (a kind of sewing sleeves) but tucked at the shoulders in the same way as in Kyoto and they wear Hanakanzashi on a wig.

Unlike in Kyoto, in any other red-light district it is regulated that Maiko should be more than 18 years old (high school students are prohibited) to appear at ozashiki.