April 17, 2006
by Mariko NAKAMURA
Kyoto is a place where you can encounter the traditional, beautiful, and slender , a “Maiko”. Maiko paint their faces white, have red lips, wear beautiful kimono, and have arranged hair with ornamental hairpins. They seem like dolls, and their appearance, and dance fascinates many people. Their job is entertaining guests by serving sake, performancing dance, songs,and playing instruments.
Maiko and Geiko
Firstly, most people know about “geisha”. Actually, “geisha” is a term used in Kanto area; people call them “Geiko” in Kyoto. Besides, “maiko”, which is Kyoto dialect, is called “hangyoku” in the Kanto area. After graduation from junior high school, a girl will debut as “maiko”. They mainly dance in front of guests because they have practiced only for a few years. They work as maiko until the age of 20. After that they become Geiko, sing and play instruments, because these take a long time to acquire. There is no age limit for being Geiko.
History of Maiko
The origin of Maiko can be traced back 300 years. At that time, women served guests green tea and dango, a traditional dessert, in teahouses. These women then began to dance and sing songs to attract customers, and serve Japanese sake instead of green tea. This was the origin of Geiko. Girls started to wear pretty kimono, and dance at the end of a flirting contest. This was the origin of Maiko.
Maiko’s daily life
Maiko dance and sing beautifully in front of their guests, and their lives look gorgeous. Their daily lives, however, are hard and strict. In the morning, they strive for progress in their skills. They usually practice Japanese dance, tea ceremony, shamisen, a Japanese traditional stringed instrumental, flower arrangement, and so on. They learn a lot of Japanese culture. After lunch and a rest, they start to prepare for work by making up, arranging hair, and putting on kimono. At night, they entertaion customers in a Japanese-style room by serving alcohol, dancing, singing and playing shamisen. They finish work around one or two. Their daily lives are really hard, but they take great pride in their job.
They are one of Japan’s cultural treasures.
* Maiko can often be seen in kagai districts where there are many okiya, or geisha houses. There are five such districts in Kyoto: “Kamishitiken”, “Gionkoubu”, “Gionhigashi”, “Pontochou”, and “Miyagawachou”.