March 26, 2020

by Arisa Yamauchi, Haruki Ishimoto and Aki Kawashima



A Maiko is a girl who trains as a Geiko. To become a Maiko, people have to be 14 years old, and they must have Japanese nationality. To train as a Geiko, Maiko have to live in Okiya (see below) and do a lot of hard training on performance and behavior. Maiko is one of the most famous cultures of Kyoto and also one of the oldest Japanese traditions, so we have to have pride in this tradition.

Gion Okiya
an Okiya in Gion, Kyoto, JAPAN

History of Maiko

Tea Room

  Maiko is a girl whose job is to add entertainment at a banquet hall and tea ceremony for the performing arts such as dance. She is also called a geisha’s apprentice who is in the training stage. About 300 years ago, the tea ceremony in a teahouse, which served tea to those who visited Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1868), was originated. At first, tea and dumplings were served but eventually sake and other dishes were added. Maiko danced there. Maiko live in a place called Okiya (as mentioned above). It is mainly for living, and they train as a Maiko from a woman trainer. Maiko are usually just 15 or 16 years old, and after graduating from junior high school, the trainer, the “mother”, takes care of their life as their guardian. In 2014, Maiko were registered as an intangible cultural heritage. It is one kind of Japanese culture. There is also a Geiko. A Geiko does the same job as Maiko. However, they differ from Maiko as they are paid money and can live independently. A Maiko has a 20-year old age limit, but a Geiko can last a lifetime.

Daily Schedule

 Maiko usually wake up at 8am every day. They get ready and head for their dance performance to perform at a tea ceremony or banquet hall, to play the shamisen (like a guitar), and have song lessons. Rehearsals are held at the Kaburenjo, which is a type of Maiko school. Recently, the number of foreign tourists visiting Kyoto has increased, so English lessons have been introduced to Maiko so that foreign customers can communicate with them. After their morning lessons, they return to their Okiya and have lunch. In the afternoon, they continue to practice, and on days when there are no lessons, they practice in a bar or relax a little. Then they start preparing for their night job in a teahouse. In the beginning, when Maiko started, their makeup took more than an hour to complete, but nowadays it takes them about 40 minutes. Then they head to their night work where customers are waiting for them. In a tatami room, they perform dances and play games. A tatami is a mat made of straw and is a kind of traditional flooring in Japan. After finishing all their tea ceremonies, they return to their Okiya around 1 o’clock in the morning, and they usually go to bed around 2 o’clock.

Troublesome Behavior for Maiko by Tourists

Maiko Paparzzi

 Recently, the number of tourists visiting Kyoto is increasing, and they are unable to keep their manners. For example, in Gion, one of the most famous areas in Kyoto, it has a more serious problem. We will talk about the problem the Maiko have in Gion. First, we interviewed a woman who was a Maiko. She experienced nuisances by tourists as well. For instance, they wanted to take photos with her (with Maiko), and then they took her hair pin (a Maiko’s hair pin), and she was late for her job because she was surrounded by a lot of tourists from overseas. Also, the woman told us some more examples. She told us that to stop these kinds of rude behavior, the government made signs, hired security guards and explained manners in Kyoto by handing out pamphlets. However, despite these rules, more and more people are not following them. In addition, some tourists enter private areas. As a result, these kinds of behavior are annoying the Maiko, and the local residents, too. Therefore, it was banned to take photos on private roads in Kyoto. In addition, shooting videos of Gion and Maiko by tourists’ cameras has had a bad influence on the traffic. A plan was proposed to solve this problem. In the southern part of Gion-Cho in the Higashiyama area (the east side of Kyoto), unauthorized photography on private roads is prohibited. It is not legally binding, but you will get a “fine” and if you take a photo on private roads, you will be charged without exception. The bill is written in Japanese, English and Chinese. “No photography on private roads” is written, and for unauthorized photography, you will be charged 10,000 yen (about $100 US). Tourists should know that people (residents) live in Gion, too, so they have to know about this problem; thus, we then hope they enjoy Kyoto sightseeing and enjoy learning about Maiko!


 At first glance, being a Maiko looks like a beautiful job; however, it’s quite a hard occupation. Maiko go back and forth between many tea houses every day. They need to go to each workplace for two hours, so they return home late. Therefore, they get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep each night on average. In addition, it takes a long time in the morning for them to get ready because a newcomer Maiko; for example, can not get dressed up in a kimono (please look at the photo), can not set up their traditional Maiko-Japanese hair style, and can not put on their make up quickly. In addition, due to the increased number of foreign tourists in Kyoto, a lot of tourists chase Maiko and Geiko to take pictures. These situations are becoming a serious problem year by year. In fact, Maiko have a lot of stress because of tourists behavior. For example, tourists speak to them, take unauthorized photos, touch them, and so on. These bad manners have been called, “Maiko Paparazzi (see photo above).” Moreover, we also heard incredible stories about bad manners for Maiko such as some people put cigarettes in Maiko’s sleeves. For these reasons, some tourists behavior is dangerous for Maiko. We want to say that they are not a costume but a human, so we should definitely not bother them. Additionally, we should learn information about Maiko; for instance, that one of Maiko’s manners is they cannot talk while they are walking. So, if you see Maiko on the road, you should not talk to them. This is the reality of the Maiko. According to the Kinki Regional Development Bureau they will send information to tourists via smartphones about the manners to follow about Maiko and Geiko. Additionally, they have decided to install signboards to give a heads-up to tourists about them. We have to protect the Maiko and Geiko and pay attention to them.

Maiko San, Gion, Kyoto / 舞子さん
a Maiko in a kimono in Gion

The Long Journey of Becoming a Maiko

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa, & Kanako Wakamatsu

In Japan, geiko are women who wear beautiful kimono, paint their face white, perform songs or dances, and play a traditional Japanese stringed instrument called the shamisen. Geiko have existed for about 300 years, and are more commonly known as ‘geisha’ outside of Japan.

Originally, geiko were the girls who served tea. Later, the tea was changed to alcohol, and the girls came to not only serve alcohol, but also perform songs or dances. At this time, the girl was called a geiko. To become a geiko requires lots of training. Girls who train to be geiko are called maiko. Now, geiko and maiko are one of the most popular symbols in Kyoto. Not everyone can be a maiko; there are certain qualifications. In this article, we are going to introduce 3 important points related to how to become a Maiko: age, house rules, and strict training. We are going to reveal some surprising facts about Maiko, too.



Age of Maiko

Only girls between the ages of 14 and 17 can start their training, and the age limit is 20. The reason is due to child labor laws. These girls must decide their future after they graduate from junior high school, but they do not need to worry about their school career and other requirements. Maiko must also have Japanese nationality.

House Rules

Maiko must live and train in a training house called an ‘okiya’. In the old days, because being a maiko was thought of as deeply traditional work, generally families who had connections or relationships with an okiya could send their daughters to become maiko. But nowadays present Japan is modern, so there are some websites for finding the right okiya and also for the recruitment of new maiko.

There are 5 main organizations of maiko and geiko. It is called ‘Gokagai’ in Japanese. They are Gionkoubu, Miyagawachou, Pontochou, Kamishitikenn and Gionhigashi. When a girl is introduced to one okiya, she can meet the landlady. However, nowadays maiko is an especially popular job among woman, so if there is no financial support from the okiya, she cannot go to train.

The last trial is an interview with the landlady. The landlady looks to see if the girl can put up with the hard training of being a maiko. She also looks at how much mutual understanding their is between the girl and her parents. If she judges that the girl cannot put up with the hard training or is not suitable for this work, then she rejects the girl.

Life in an okiya is unimaginable for us. Maiko is a traditional thing, so there are many strict and traditional rules. Okiya is a place where people gather, so maiko have to live in a community-style life. Okiya is not a for-profit business; they pay for all of the girls: their life, their food, clothes, makeup tools and more. For this reason, the landlady is always very strict. She always judges the girls, and tests their strong intentions and humanity. It is said that one’s look is not the most important qualification of being a maiko, but you have to improve both your humanity and figure.

Maiko Training

After the final interview, at last the training will start. The training term is called the ‘preparation term’. The girls live in the okiya, and learn Japanese dance, Kyokotoba, behavior, and the manner which is called ‘iroha’ in Japanese. The landlady and other trainers check the girls behavior in daily life. The girls have no free time of their own. Half of applicants fail on this point. It means the training is so hard, and they must do their best every time. Maiko is beautiful work on the outside, but the hidden side is strenuous and challenging. At this point, it is hard for the girls to imagine that luxurious work of a geiko is in their near future.

Once girls finish the preparation term, they can be a maiko. Before then, they are called ‘minaraisan’ which means ‘not enough’. The main work place is called ‘ozashiki’, where the girls can treat customers with their dance or song. After 5 years of being a maiko, it is called ‘nennki’ in Japanese. They cannot receive a wage because they have to give the okiya their money during the training term. Also, they cannot quit their job.


Maiko in Ozashiki

Being a maiko is a specific job because maiko is not the end goal; it is a training position. When girls become about 20, they are eligable to be a geiko, which is the main goal for a maiko.

How to Become a Maiko

The shape of a girl’s body is certainly an important point toward being a maiko. Girls must wear shoes called ‘oboko’, which are 10cm high, so the girls cannot be too tall. Also, a Maiko must be accomplished in several areas, so they must develop skill in Japanese dance, Japanese songs, and in playing the shamisen. They also must learn kyokotoba, which is the traditional Kyoto dialect. The work of Maiko is hard, so girls must find ways to work hard and overcome their difficulties.

Maiko Puts On Oboko

Surprising Facts About Maiko

There are some prohibitions in the maiko world. The first is that girls cannot take a bath for a week, because their hairstyle is difficult to make again. Second, is that girls must not enter food stores and cafes, because the image of the maiko is important. Maiko must maintain the pure image of traditional culture. Third, maiko are prohibited from using a cellphone in the presence of other people. This is also related to the problem of maintaining a traditional image. Finally, maiko are not supposed to talk while they are walking. It is a kind of maiko manner.

Finally, after finishing this strict training, maiko can become geiko. As we said before, it is very strict. However, it is a traditional thing, so we should not be quick to change the rules, but rather protect the traditions to maintain the image of Kyoto throughout the years.


A maiko is a woman who trains as a Geiko. To become a maiko you have to be 14~17 years old, and have Japanese nationality. To train as a geiko, maiko have to live in okiya and do a lot of strict training related to performance, behavior and so on. Maiko is one of symbols of Kyoto and also one of the old Japanese traditions, so we have to respect this tradition. In addition, one of the maiko’s manners is that they cannot talk while they are walking, so if you see Maiko on the road, you cannot talk to them. This is the reality of the maiko.

Andiamo a Hanamikoji! Una via dove si può percepire l’atmosfera della Kyoto di una volta

Juri kimura, Chisato Koike


Volete vedere la Kyoto tradizionale, ma avete poco tempo…

Non sapete dove andare a Kyoto…


A chi non sa bene cosa fare per vedere Kyoto, raccomandiamo la strada principale della zona più tradizionale del centro di Kyoto, il quartiere di Gion.


Via Hanamikoji è un vicolo lungo circa 1 km.

Ci sono antichi e famosi ristoranti di cucina kyotese e sale da tè frequentate dalle geiko e dalle maiko, le geisha di Kyoto, e tanti altri edifici antichi che ci fanno rivivere il passato.

La strada è stata riparata di recente e ha una bella pavimentazione di pietra, ma dovete fare attenzione alle macchine perché c’è molto traffico.

Andando dritti verso sud potete visitare il tempio Kenninji.


Sala da te’ (ochaya) a Hanamikoji


Cammindo per il centro di Kyoto si possono vedere tanti turisti che guardano e fotografano le maiko. Siccome a Kyoto ci sono tante sale da tè tradizionali (ochaya), con un po’ di fortuna potrete vedere le geiko e le maiko vere!


Un ristorante tradizionale a Hanamikoji


Ci sono tanti ristoranti famosi per la cucina a base di carne o per i sushi. I prezzi di questi locali sono un po’ cari, ma i piatti tradizionali sono serviti con grande senso estetico, percui sono molto belli oltre a essere buoni. L’atmosfera di questi ristoranti è quella del Giappone di una volta, e ci si possono passare ore piacevoli e rilassate, che diventeranno senz’altro uno dei ricordi più belli del vostro soggiorno in Giappone. Siccome quasi tutti i ristoranti sono spesso al completo, è meglio prenotare molto in anticipo.



Mappa di Gion con Hanamikoji


Per arrivare in via Hanamikoji potete prendere l’autobus municipale (Shibasu) numero 206 e scendere a Gion; il treno della compagnia Keihan fino alla stazione di Gion Shijo e camminare circa tre minuti; oppure il treno della compagnia Hankyu fino alla stazione di Kawaramachi e camminare circa dieci minuti. Vicino c’è un parcheggio a pagamento, ma non c’è un parcheggio per le biciclette.



KAMOGAWA ODORI (La danza del fiume Kamo) 鴨川をどり

IMG_4570Mika Yamauchi


Che cos’è  Kamogawa odori? Kamogawa odori è una rappresentazione di danze splendidamente eseguite da maiko e geiko (le geisha di Kyoto), che ha avuto origine nel 1872. Il tempo di rappresentazione è di un’ora e si svolge in due parti. La prima è una rappresentazione teatrale con danza e la seconda è uno spettacolo di danza.

Elementi della danza: L’immagine comune che si ha delle maiko e delle geiko è quella di persone che danzano elegantemente, ma nella prima parte è molto differente. Questa ha infatti inizio con maiko e geiko che, cantando nagauta (canto e dialoghi) come in una specie di musical, raccontano la storia agli spettatori. I temi di Kamogawa odori sono tratti dalla storia giapponese e da racconti della tradizione. Vengono utilizzate varie tecniche del teatro kabuki. Le scene di battaglia con le spade di legno e quelle delle zuffe fra donne sono molto vigorose. Le scene in cui un uomo cerca con insistenza di sedurre una donna, essendo mute, sono molto divertenti anche per gli spettatori stranieri che non capiscono il giapponese. La seconda parte è uno spettacolo di danza con una storia eseguito dalle maiko e  dalle geiko, che comprende elementi del teatro kabuki. La geiko è una donna dall’aspetto dignitoso ed elegante. La maiko danza in modo ingenuo e grazioso, e adornando il costume con fiori di glicine ci fa sentire l’atmosfera delle stagioni.

Quando e dove si possono vedere le danze Kamogawa odori?

  • Quando?

Dal 1 al 24 maggio sono rappresentate tre volte al giorno (12:30-, 14:20-, 16:10-)

  • Dove?

Al teatro Pontocho Kaburenjo; INDIRIZZO: Sanjo Ohashi Nishizume, Nakagyoku, Kyoto

teatro kamogawa odori

Il teatro Pontocho Kaburenjo


  • Quanto costano i biglietti?
  1. Biglietto speciale con tè : 4,500 yen
  2. Biglietto speciale : 4,000 yen
  3. Biglietto normale : 2,000 yen
  4. Biglietto del tè : 600 yen

Se si comprano il biglietto speciale con tè o il biglietto del tè….. si può partecipare alla cerimonia del tè e bere il tè preparato dalla geiko, gustando un dolcetto tradizionale. Oppure si può portare a casa un piattino (kiyomizuyaki) come souvenir. In questo modo è possibile avvicinarsi alla cultura giapponese.

INFORMAZIONI (in giapponese e inglese):

MIYAKO ODORI (La danza del ciliegio) 都をどり

Mika Yamauchi


Che cos’ è MIYAKO ODORI .

MIYAKO ODORI è una danza tradizionale molto raffianata delle maiko e geiko di Kyoto. Le geiko sono le geishe di Kyoto, e le maiko sono le apprendiste geishe. Miyako odori significa letteralmente “danza della capitale”, cioè danza di Kyoto, in quanto Kyoto era l’antica capitale imperiale del Giappone.  La tradizione è nata nel 1872, le danze sono composte da otto scene, e una rappresentazione dura un ora. I temi principali sono la storia e i racconti tradizionali giapponesi, oppure eventi famosi recenti, e sono basati sul motivo tradizionale delle quattro stagioni. Assistendo a una rappresentazione di miyako odori si possono apprezzare la tradizione e la cultura giapponesi.



Elementi della danza

  • La danza

Maiko e geiko esprimono i sentimenti con i movimenti del corpo, senza usare le espressione facciali. Usano tutto il corpo, dalle dita delle mani alle dita dei piedi, e danzano in modo a volte raffinatamente elegante e avolte in modo vivace. Il fatto che si vestano anche da uomo è molto interessante. I costumi sono kimono tradizionali, i cui disegni sono considerati portafortuna. Usano come attrezzi di scenacome oggetti tradizionali come sensu (ventagli) e cho-chin (lanterne giapponesi in carta) che vui consiglio di ossarvare con attenzione.

  • Le canzoni e la musica

Le canzoni e la musica sono eseguite dal vivo. Le canzoni hanno uin carattere solenne, e sono chiamate nagauta (letteralmente canzone lunga). La musica ritmica è suonata con strumenti a tre corde (shamisen), percussioni (taiko) e flauto traverso (shinobue). Forse suona un po’ monotona alle orecchie degli occidentali, ma è  tipica musica giapponese tradizionale. Per apprezzarla occorre stare attenti ai delicati mutamenti che accompagnano i cambiamenti di scena, e che sono capaci di far risaltare la bellezza della danza, comunicando l’atmosfera graziosa ed elegante della Kyoto tradizionale.

  • Il fondale

Sul fondale sono dipinti luoghi famosi che tutti i giapponesi conoscono. Anche il fondale ha un carattere stagionale, in quanto vi sono dipinte piante come i ciliegi (simbolo della primavera) e gli aceri (simbolo dell’autunno). Il cambiamento di scena  è molto veloce, come si addice a uno stile moderno.

Quando e dove si possono vedere le MIYAKO ODORI?


Il teatro

  • Quando?

Dal 1 al 31 aprile sono rappresentate quattro volte al giorno (12:30; 14:00; 15:30; 16:50).

  • Dove?

Al teatro Kyoto Gionkobu Kaburenjo. INDIRIZZO: 570-2 Gionmachiminamigawa Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074

  • Il prezzo dei biglietti:
  1. biglietto speciale con tè giapponese : ¥4500
  2. biglietto  di prima classe: ¥4000
  3. biglietto di seconda classe:  ¥2,000


Se si compra il biglietto speciale…

si può partecipare alla cerimonia del tè giapponese prima della rappresentazione. Le geiko preparano il tè e le maiko lo servono agli ospiti. Si dice una maiko che serve il tè è come un’ “opera d’arte in movimento”, ed è un’occasione per vederle da vicino. Si mangia un dolce giapponese con il tè , e alla fine si riceve un piatto come souvenir.


Il tè e il dolce


La cerimonia del tè giapponese



INFORMAZIONI (in inglese)


Dressing Up as a Maiko in Kyoto

by Naoko Iseki and Hajime Yozaki

Maiko and geiko are traditional performers whose job it is to add zest to a dinner by singing, dancing, and playing the shamisen. They are also a symbol of traditional Japanese culture. Are you interested in maiko and geiko and the kimono they wear? Kimono is one of the most well-known traditional costumes in Japan. Perhaps, we associate kimono with maiko and geiko. They are really beautiful!

Visitors to Kyoto can also dress up as a maiko. Here is what some customers said about their experience:

  • “I study about Japanese culture at a university in the United States. I became interested in Japanese culture when I first saw kimono. Though I have been to Kyoto three times, it was the first time for me to dress up as a maiko. Kimono was easier to wear than I expected. There are lots of beautiful kimono, and it is very hard to find a kimono I love.”
  • “Becoming a maiko was one of my dreams since I was a child. The material of kimono is very good, and also the staff were very helpful.”
  • “My daughter was very pleased to dress up as a maiko. And through the experience of dressing up as a maiko, she seemed to be able to understand Kyoto’s traditional culture.”
  • “When I dressed up as maiko, many foreigners believed I was a real maiko and took pictures of me.”
  • “I felt that face powder was cool. At first, I was shy to apply ruby lipstick because I’m not accustomed to using make up.”
  • “Because I wore a beautiful kimono, I tried to walk deliberately, I could become a maiko.”

Now, we will introduce some shops where you can dress up as a maiko in Kyoto.


The main office is located near Kiyomizu Temple. After being transformed into a maiko, you can go for a walk around Kodaiji Temple, Nene Road, Sannen-zaka, Ninen-zaka, Yasaka Shrine, and Chion-in Temple. Shiki has 200 kimono, and you can choose which one you want to wear.

Sample Plans

Maiko Studio Photography Plan
Cost: 9,975 yen
Time required: two hours and ten minutes
・Contents: twelve poses taken in the studio, and a photo book containing twelve pages

Maiko Stroll Plan
Cost: 13,000 yen
Time required: two and a half hours
・Contents: twelve poses taken in the studio, a stroll lasting an hour, and a photo book containing twelve pages

Samurai Plan (for men)
Cost: 8,500 yen
Time required: one hour and 50 minutes
・Contents: twelve poses taken in the studio, and a photo book containing twelve pages


Address: 351-16, Masuya-cho, Kodaiji-Minamimon, Higasiyama-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: a five-minute walk from the city bus stop “Kiyomizu-michi”
Tel: 075-531-2777 Fax: 075-533-2244

[email protected]

Shiki also has two branches, Sakura and Kitano.


The first branch is located in Gion. You can take a walk around Kiyomizu Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Sanjusangen-do, and Kenninji Temple. Sakura has 150 kimono, and you can choose which one you want to wear.

Sample Plans

Maiko Sakura Plan
Cost: 6,500 yen
Time required: one hour and 50 minutes
・Contents: two poses taken in the studio, and an album containing two pages

Maiko Studio Photography Plan
Cost: 8,900 yen
Time required: two hours
・Contents: six poses taken in the studio, and an album containing six pages

Samurai Plan (for men)
Cost: 6,500 yen
Time required: one hour and 20 minutes
・Contents: two poses taken in the studio, and an album containing two pages


Address: Building-Shiki, 110-9 Tatsumi-cho, Todaiji-Matubara noboru, Higasiyama-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: the shop is front of the city bus stop “Kiyomizu-Michi”
Tel: 075-533-6666 Fax: 075-533-6667
E-mail and HP are the same as the main office


The second branch of Shiki is located near Kinkakuji Temple. Nearby are Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine and Ryoanji Temple. Kitano has 150 kimono, too, and you can choose which one you want to wear. The plans available at Kitano branch are almost the same as the main office, Shiki.

Address: 54-4, Hiranotoriimachi-Cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: Near the city bus stop “Wara-Tenjin-Mae”
Tel: 075-462-3777 Fax: 075-462-1117
E-mail and HP are the same as the main office

※If you want to dress up as a geiko, you have to pay an additional 2,100 yen.


The shop is located near Kyoto Station. Maika has 400 kimono, and you can choose which one you want to wear.

Sample Plans

Okigaru Plan
Cost: 6,500 yen
Time required: one hour
・Contents: two pictures, and free photography in the shop

※If you want to dress up as geiko, you have to pay an additional 1,500 yen.

Aoi Plan
This is the most popular plan in this shop!
Cost: 13,650 yen
Time required: one hour and a half
・Contents: four pictures, 60 minutes’ free photography, and a 30-minute stroll from the shop to Ebisu Shrine

Miyako Plan
Cost: 15,750 yen
Time required: one hour and 45 minutes
・Contents: four pictures, 60 minutes’ free photography in the shop, and a 45-minute stroll from the shop to Kenninnji Temple

Okigaru Samurai Plan
Cost: 6,500 yen
Time required: one hour
・Contents: two pictures, 60 minutes’ free photography in the shop

Shinsen-Gumi Plan
Cost: 12,600 yen
Time required: one hour and 20 minutes (max.)
・Contents: two pictures, and 60 minutes’ free photography in the shop


Address: 4-297, Miyagawa-suji, Shijo-kudaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: a three-minute walk from the station “Gion-Shijo,” on the Keihan line or a five-minute walk from the station “Shijo-Kawaramachi,” on the Hankyu line
Tel: 075-551-1661


This shop is located near Kiyomizu Temple.

Sample Plans

Hannari Plan
Cost: 8,800 yen
Time required: one hour
・Contents: a post card, and a free photograph
※This shop accepts only 3 groups per day for the plan.

Maiko Geisha Henshin Plan
Cost: 19,800 yen
Time required: one hour and a half
・Contents: four pictures, and free photography
※With this plan, you can experience dressing up as both a maiko and a geiko.

Shinsen-gumi Plan
Cost: 9,000 yen
Time required: 40 minutes
・Contents: two pictures, and free photography
※Women also can experience this plan.


Address: 6-583-70, Gojobashi-higashi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: a five-minute walk from the city bus stop “Gojo-Zaka”
Tel/ Fax 075-531-1166

Dança de Gion

by Tomomi Serizawa

Todos os anos, entre os dias 1 e 10 de novembro, é possível assistir à dança das famosas Maiko e Geiko de Quioto. Durante estes dez dias, são realizadas duas apresentações diárias, às 13:30 e 16:00, respetivamente.

Em Quioto, existem cinco grupos tradicionais de Maiko e Geiko. A dança de novembro pertence ao grupo de Gion-Higashi.

Na primavera, os restantes quatro grupos também representam as suas danças:

Miyako-odori (1~30 abril)

Kyo-odori (7~22 abril)

Kitano-odori (15~25 abril)

Kamogawa-odori (1~24 maio)

Esta é uma das raras ocasiões em que qualquer pessoa pode assistir ao vivo à atuação das Maiko e Geiko.


Praça Gion-Kaikan

Telefone: 075-561-1224

Estação de trêm: Shijo (Keihan Line); Kawaramachi (Hankyu Line)

Estação de metrô: Higashiyama

Data: 1 a 10 de Novembro (13:30~14:30 e 16:00~17:00)

Entrada: 4000 ienes (inclui chá verde e um prato japonês)
3500 ienes (sem chá e sem oferta de prato)


where maiko & geisha live & perform
by YONEO Kazumi

Maiko and geisha are the living image of Kyoto. Even Hollywood films featuring them in leading roles are being produced, so these colorful, kimono-clad figures will continue to draw attention from all over the world.

Maiko, which literally means “dancing girl,” are apprentice geisha, and geiko are fully fledged geisha. These cultured women live as boarders in hanamachi — literally, “flower towns,” which are special districts where maiko and geiko practice and perform their dancing and other traditional arts. Kyoto has five hanamachi: Gion Kobu, Gion Higashi, Pontocho, Kamishichiken, and Miyagawa-cho.

To become a maiko, a girl graduating from junior high school at age 15 gets an introduction through an acquaintance who has a relationship with a geisha house, known as an o-chaya (or okiya) In other words, she starts to train when her compulsory education finishes. In an interview with the applicant, the o-chaya’s head lady, or okami, explains what the challenging work will involve, such as years of training and strict rules, and if the girl still wishes to become a maiko she leaves the parental roof and begins to live in the hanamachi. She will begin her apprenticeship by doing the chores of her house and by learning Kyoto dialect for about 11 months. Every day she also practices Japanese dance, the shamisen (a stringed instrument), tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy and Japanese poetry, in addition to learning about kimono.

When 11 months have passed, the okami decides the time of the girl’s debut as a maiko.Now, one of the geisha living under the same roof will become her oneesan — an elder sister who teaches her all of the manners in the parlor, the special etiquette and social graces of the geisha’s world. She will also get a new name. When being given new names, maiko usually receive one Chinese character from the oneesan’s name. For example, if the oneesan’s name is 豆千代, the new maiko’s name will be 豆花. You can see from this how very deep their relationship will be.

When four or five years of intensive training have passed, the young woman graduates from the maiko class and becomes a geiko. This event is called erikae. Eri means collar, and erikae means to change the color of her collar, because while a maiko wears a red-collared kimono, a geiko wears a white one. After she becomes a geiko, the woman will also begin wearing a wig instead of making a Japanese coiffure with her real hair. Lucky for her, she can now shampoo every day without any hesitation!

There must be many people living in or visiting Kyoto who would like to meet maiko and geiko. In the hanamachi, however, there is a traditional system for handling customers which is called ichigen san okotowari, in which customers who visit for the first time with no introduction from a regular client are refused service. It’s the most famous system of hanamachi and although it may sound cold or mean, the o-chaya do this for good reasons: first, because they will ask customers to pay their bills one month later by sending someone to the customer’s house; and secondly, because an o-chaya has to know their customers’ preferences to provide them with a truly warm welcome. So, ichigen san okotowari is a good system in the hanamachi.

To tell the truth, however, there is also a method of meeting the maiko and the geisha even if you know no acquaintance who can vouch for you in the hanamachi. The maiko and geiko hold a lot of events throughout the year, and there are some in which even the general public can participate. These are where their dances can be seen. In April, the Miyako-odori (known in English as the “Cherry Blossom Dance”) is held in Gion from April 1st to 30th. The Kyo-odori is held in Miyagawa-cho from the first through the third Sunday in April. The Kitano-odori is performed in Kamishichiken from April 15th to 25th. In May, the Kamogawa-odori is held in Pontocho from May 1st to 24th. In the autumn, the Gion-odori can be enjoyed in Gion Higashi from November 1st to 10th. Details are available by clicking on this link to the Kyoto City Tourists’ Association’s “Event Web Magazine”:

If you come to Kyoto on a day when none of the above events are scheduled, please wait in front of Ichiriki, the most famous o-chaya in Gion, between 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. You’ll find it on the corner of Shijo and Hanamikoji streets. During this hour you surely can see maiko and geiko entering Ichiriki. Of course, you cannot talk to them even if you try, because they are going to work. However, you will be unable to take your eyes off of them, because their appearances and the way they walk are very beautiful and elegant.

One last tip: If you are a woman, Kyoto’s Higashiyama area has a lot of shops that can offer you the service of dressing and making you up to transform you into a “maiko” or “geisha” (at least in appearance!) for a day. The price is about 10,000 yen. How about adding this experience to the fond memories of your trip to Kyoto?