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 Differences between Oiran and Maiko

by Ryusei Asamoto

Kyoto is known as the typical ancient Japanese city. There are many unique buildings and cultural things like temples, shrines and the way of building houses. Especially, you know about Maiko (Geisha) maybe. It is very popular in Japan as you know. You can not only take pictures with them but also dress up like them in Kyoto. However, do you know about Oiran? A lot of people think there’s no differences between Oiran and Maiko (Geisha). Let me tell you about it. First, let’s take a look at Oiran.

The Origin of Oiran

In the Edo period (1603~1868), the Tokugawa government approved Yukaku (licensed prostitution area) to make men obey easily and allow them to refresh themselves. At that time, regulations of Tokugawa government were strict, so citizens often revolted. Since then, a lot of Yukaku opened in all around Japan.  There were many brothels of girls in Yukaku. The men could choose a girl from these brothels. The girls who worked there were prostitutes, called Asobime. Asobime had to make money to live because of their poverty.

In addition, there were ranks in Asobime. If the girl who the man chose had the lowest rank, her fee was relatively cheap. Obviously, the expensive brothels had girls who were more desirable, younger, more educated or prettier. The best Asobime was called Oiran.

The Duties of Oiran

What did Oiran have to do in the first place? Was it just hooking up with a customer? Drinking alcohol with him? The answer is “Yes”. Maybe, their job is harder than you think. As stated above, they had to drink alcohol and hook up with him. They had to act his wife, in other words. This is first difference between and Maiko (Geisha). Maiko didn’t need to sell sexual favors. What Maiko had to do is dancing or playing music instruments. Of course, but Oiran could dance and play music instruments too. Also, Oiran also accepted their clients as lovers as well as performing for them as entertainers.

In addition, Oiran had to spend the night with unspecified large number of men, they could be exposed to venereal disease always. If an Oiran got a disease, it meant she couldn’t continue to work as an Oiran. On the other hand, Maiko (Geisha) didn’t need to worry about venereal disease.

Maiko didn’t take time for guests who weren’t introduced by clients or through other social networks, but Oiran didn’t have such protection. It was important for Oiran to be available if a guest wanted to be looked after. In contrast to Oiran, who might receive a stranger as a customer, the guest needed an introduction by someone who had been to the Maiko’s shop in order to become a customer of the Maiko.

Oiran in the Present Day

In 1957, 4/1, the anti-prostitution law was released, so the traditional Oiran officially ceased to exist. However, you can see Oiran, which are close to real ones of old times in Toei Kyoto Studio Park. It reconstructs the shop which Oiran worked. If you are interested in Oiran, please visit there. You can see cultural things like Oiran’s clothes and pictures there.

↑Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Kamishichiken and its shops

by Riho Miyagi, Akane Mukai and Yuuka Yamazaki


Kyoto has a lot of popular sightseeing spots, for example, Kinkakuji-temple (金閣寺), Kiyomizu-temple (清水寺), and Fushimiinari-shrine (伏見稲荷大社). Speaking of famous places, do you know any essential and passionate places in Kyoto?


What is Kamishichiken?

Kamishichiken” is a district of northwest Kyoto. It is the oldest of the five hanamachi  in Kyoto and located east of the Kitano Tenmangu-shrine. Local people pronounce it as “Kamihichiken”. In Kanji, it means “Seven Upper Houses”. In the Muromachi Period, seven teahouses were built from tools and material leftover from the rebuilding of the Kitano Tenmangu-Shrine. Kamishichiken has many traditional wooden buildings, some of which are teahouses or geisha houses. There are approximately 25 maiko and geiko in Kamishichiken now and they entertain in 10 teahouses in Kamishichiken. It is located in Kyoto’s Nishijin area, which is famous for traditional textiles.


The Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater

The Kamishichiken kaburenjo theater, considered by many to be the main symbol of this small Geiko district, is one of the few remaining wooden theaters. The Kamishichiken kaburenjo is the largest building in Kamishichiken. It is known for the performances of Maiko. Maiko learn and practice their songs and dances here every day. Their performance takes 1.5 hours. There are 20 performers dressed in kimono. This dance performance was first held as Kitano Odori in March 1952, to commemorate the 1050th year anniversary of Sugawara-no-Michizane’s death. He was a highly ranked court noble to whom Kitano Tenmangu shrine is dedicated. It also featured the tea ceremony, where Geisha prepare bowls of Japanese tea and sweets. The performance is considered as both elite and tasteful. The Kitano Odori performance opens on March 25th and ends April 17th. In addition, from July 1st until August 31st, a beer garden is open to the public at Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theatre and offers unique chance to be served by maiko and geiko.


Shops near kamishichiken

The area around Kitano Tenman-gu shrine has lots of wonderful shops and cafés. I recommend you try shaved ice with real fruit syrup in summer time at KONOHANA.  At another shop, YUSURAGO, yuzu-flavored ice is very popular. Yuzu is a fruit. produced by a tree belonging to the Citrus family and is similar to oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit.. Another area shop is MAEDA, which is famous for baby sponge cake. Baby sponge cake can be eaten in all seasons and can be brought back home. If you want to eat Japanese sweets I recommend TENZINDO. This shop serves rice cakes, one for only 100 yen, so it’s very reasonably priced. And I really want to recommend NERIYA HACHIBE. This shop is famous for bracken-starch cake. This cake comes in two flavors: kinako (soybean flour) and matcha (powdered green tea). Matcha is now popular throughout the world, so you should try it. Kyoto is famous for tofu (soy bean curd) and yuba (bean curd skin). If you want to try one of these I really recommend TOYOUKE CHAYA. This shop is famous for tofu and yuba. you can enjoy traditional Japanese flavors at these shops.


Kamishichiken is not as famous as other hanamachi, but there are many interesting and fantastic shops here. Once you go, you can absolutely feel the core of Kyoto culture.


The Contrast of Red and White

by Mayu Kuwahara, Karen Takeda, Yuri Nonaka

Why people are attracted to Maiko

The Gion district in Kyoto is one of the famous places where you can spot a Maiko. These places are called “Hanamachi.” On Hanamachi street, if you are lucky, you will have a chance to see maiko in the early or late evening. You would probably fall in love with their beauty. Especially, the contrast of their pure white skin and the vivid red lips; it attracts many people irrespective of their age or gender. Some girls yearn for being such a beautiful maiko, and I was one of them.
2 maico

Longing to be a Maiko

Why do Japanese girls want to be a Maiko?
​When I was 15 years old, I watched a TV documentary about how a girl became a maiko in Kyoto. The protagonist was a  15-year-old-girl who looked normal, and yet she really yearned to be a maiko, the same as me. In the program she said that she wanted to live in the hierarchy, the mysterious world which cannot be seen easily, and the world with traditional conventions. Also, she felt a special attraction for living just next to the things that have been handed down since olden times. When I heard that, I realized these she and other girls who want to be maiko were meant to live in Hanamachi.  At the same time, I was moved to tears and thought what a nice thing it would be to master the skills of a maiko!

Maiko Makeup Step by Step

There is one step to becoming a Maiko in Kyoto and anyone can become a maiko by following this way of make up.
1. Soften the “bintsuke abura,”* which is waxy/oily undercoat, in your hands and apply liberally all over the face, neck and top of the chest. This method is used as the foundation for the “shironuri,” the white base.  The workmanship of shironuri is different depending on the way bintsuke abura  is applied. Therefore, this part is very important.
2. Dilute the “neri oshiroi”* in a dish and dissolve it in water. Then, paint it over the same areas where you applied the bintsuke abura with a special brush called “itahake.”* Use a sponge to blend the makeup. In this part of the process, maiko apply the make-up to their own neck while using a mirror, or the maiko will help each other to apply this coat. After that, apply  the “kona oshiroi”* over your face and press by using a puff.
There are two meanings of neck make-up; one is to make the neck look slim and the other is to wish the maiko will perform well. For Japanese people, showing the nape and neck line is thought to be erotic.
3. Dust “tonoko”* onto the upper half of the face with a brush. Do the same for cheeks.
4. Draw the eyebrow with the black eyebrow pencil. Then, add red lining to the black eyebrows.*
5. Make a small diamond shape on the outer corner of the eyelid with red lining color. These are called “mebari”* in Japanese. Then, use a cotton swab to bring excess color from the diamond underneath the lash line.
6. Use black liquid eyeliner to create a fine line and apply a second or third line to create a thicker line.
7. Put red lining color on the lips. Apply slightly higher than the natural lip line. Maiko who only have one year of experience use different ways of makeup. To show their loveliness, only their lower lips are painted with red lining color.

Become a Maiko

If you were over 16 years old, it might be too late to be maiko, but what if you could turn yourself into a maiko for a single day? There are many places where you can experience becoming a maiko in Kyoto. Turning yourself into a maiko is one of the most popular activities for tourists and girls who yearned once to become a maiko in Kyoto. Unlike other activities, you can get an impressive and fun experience thorough traditional Japanese culture. If you are in Kyoto, maiko makeover experience is a must!
* bintsuke abura : Waxy/Oily undercoat
* neri oshiroi: White face paint
* kona oshiroi: White face power
* tonoko Rouge: Pink/Red power
* mebari/beni Red Lining Color: Red cream
* itahake: Wide brush







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.




by Koudai Kobayashi and Akari Mihashi

Kanzashi is a traditional Japanese hair accessory for women. In English we might call it a ‘traditional Japanese hair ornament’. Historically, it was made of many different materials, for example, wood, gold or silver-plated metal, elephant tusks, and even silk. But recently, it has come to be made of plastic. For the part of the charm, other rare materials are used, such as coral, agate, jadeite, and crystal.

 Kanzashi  3       Kanzashi  1


History of Kanzashi

The origins of kanzashi lie in ancient Japan. At that time people believed that a special power was contained with a thin stick, and by inserting the stick into ones hair, evil sprits or bad energy could be warded off. So, kanzashi was originally thought to be more of an amulet rather than a hair accessory.

In the Nara period (710~794 AD), what we now know as kanzashi came to Japan via China. Then, in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573~1600 AD), the hairstyle of Japanese women changed from long straigt hair to a variety of hairdos, thus the need for greater varieties of hair ornaments. At that time, the creation and use of kanzashi became more popular.

In the early Edo period (1603 AD) in Kyoto, hanabira kanzashi (flower kanzashi) began to be worn by women. When that style made its way to Edo (what is now Tokyo), it evolved into Tumami kannzashi (we explained this type of Kanzashi below No. 4)

After the middle of the Edo period, kanzashi became more and more popular and its shape became more diversified, for example, slim ones, wide ones, and elliptical ones. Moreover, the designs became even more beautiful, colorful, and elaborate.

In the Meiji period (1868~1912 AD), in association with westernization, Japanese women adopted a more western-style look, so kananzashi became out of fashion. But nowadays because of its history and usefulness, kanzashi has become popular again.

There are now a wide variety of different kanzashi designs. Also, the price has become much more affordable, so we can buy kanzashi more easily.

 Kanzashi  2             Kanzashi  5

Types of Kanzashi

These days, there are many kinds of Kanzashi. Here are some examples.


It is a thin and slender kanzashi. It has one or two legs. Originally, it was used by samurai class woman. On the top, there is round, rhombus, or flower-pattern ornament. It was originally made with silver, wood, or bamboo. Nowadays however, it is mainly made of plastic, because it is inexpensive.

Kanzashi  4



This is a form of kanzashi that looks like an ear pick. At one end, there is a small colored ball. This ball can be made of many different materials, such as amber, lapis lazuli, jade, tortoiseshell, elephant tusk, glass, plastic, etc.

Kanzashi  7 Kanzashi  10 



This type of kanzashi is similar to tama-kazashi, but without the ball at the top. It was made of metal traditionally, but is now also made of plastic. It used to be for married woman to wear. In the case of geisha, they can wear two such kanzashi, but in case of a prostitute, they can use any number of yoshicho kanzashi.

Kanzashi  6


It is also called ‘hana-kanzashi’ because it is made into the shape of a flower. It is made of colorful silk. Tsumami-kanzashi is now often used by maiko (geisha-in-training).

 Kanzashi  8

Seasonal Designs

As stated above, maiko are geisha-in-training. They often wear hana-kanzashi, which contain flower designs that follow the seasons of the year. In Kyoto, we can see the change of the season from the hana-kanzashi the maiko wear.

In January, pine, bamboo, and plum are common kanzashi motifs. The crane motif is also used, and it is made to appear very lively.

In February, pretty plum flowers are often used. In the days before the beginning of spring, we also see ornamental ball-shaped scent bags on kanzashi.

In March, we see rape blossom,narcissus, peony in use. Especially, the rape blossom is the most typical flower of this season.

In April, weeping cherries are common. The weeping cherry blossom is the quintessential flower of the Japanese spring, so wearing cherry blossoms on their kanzashi makes maiko look very cute.

In May, blue iris and Japanese wisteria are often used on kanzashi. In the old calendar, May signifies the rainy season, so people use a fresh color.

In June, hydrangea and willow is often used. In this month the color of Kanzashi becomes blue or green, which looks fresh. Also, the color of the maiko’s kimono changes to a lighter shade.

In July, the whole city of Kyoto is enveloped in the spirit of the Gion festival, so the style and kanzashi of maiko becomes very lively. Their kimono becomes a light color and goldfish are also used in their kanzashi. When we see kanzashi in July, we can feel cool, refreshed, and festive.

In August, morning glory and silver grass is often used. In the old calendar, August is early autumn, so the design of kanzashi becomes cooler. Morning glory is a Japanese summer tradition.

In September, bellflowers and Japanese bush clovers are often used. At the time, the atmosphere of Kyoto is perfect for relaxing.

In October, the chrysanthemum, which is the typical flower of autumn, is the main mofif. From small to large chrysanthemums, a variety of designs appear in the kanzashi.

In November, the red leaves of autumn are fantastic in Kyoto, so as you might imagine, the Kanzashi of maiko displays the same beautiful red leaves of autumn. It makes this season more colorful and beautiful.

In December, gorgeous flowers and bringers of good luck are used a lot, because in this month, people are very busy to prepare for the next year. For this reason, the design of Kanzashi is a splendid one.

 Kanzashi  9

How to use Kanzashi

  1. Tie up your hair.
  2. Twist your hair in a clockwise direction a few times.
  3. Hold your hair twisted with your one hand
  4. Put kanzashi into your hair from the top to the middle of the hair twisted.
  5. Put on the left of your head while holding your hair twisted with your one hand.
  6. Turn the edge of the kanzashi upside down to face the lower right.
  7. Insert two kanzashi to the lower right along your head.
  8. Wear your kanzashi with happiness and humility.


In Kyoto, there is a good Kanzashi shop, where there are various types of Kanzashi.

Please click this link and go there to buy your favorite Kanzashi.


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)


Museo Internazionale dei Manga di Kyoto

Ayane Okubo, Kyoko Kasami

 Il Museo Internazionale dei Manga di Kyoto è nato dalla cooperazione tra la città di Kyoto e l’Università Seika di Kyoto in cui esiste una Facoltà di Manga. Originariamente l’edificio era la sede della scuola elementare di Tatsuike, però col tempo gli scolari sono diminuiti, e la scuola ha dovuto chiudere definitivamente. Ancora oggi all’esterno si possono vedere elementi che appartenevano alla vecchia scuola elementare, come parti degli edifici e gli alberi di ciliegio.

Museo Manga Kyoto

L’esterno del museo


Il museo svolge tre funzioni principali: è una biblioteca dove si possono leggere liberamente i manga; è un museo nel senso stretto del termine, ossia una galleria per l’esposizione dei manga (soprattutto al primo piano); è un centro di ricerca, sede del Centro Studi Internazionale sui Manga dell’Università Seika di Kyoto e dell’ufficio della Società dei Fumetti Giapponesi.



All’interno c’è la biblioteca per bambini in cui si trovano tremila libri illustrati. Si entra a piedi scalzi, e i bambini possono leggere i libri illustrati in libertà come a casa propria. (In Giappone si entra nelle case a piedi scalzi). Anche gli adulti possono entrare, e quindi tutta la famiglia può passarvi il tempo piacevolmente.



Nel museo si può vedere Kamishibai, un teatrino ambulante in cui il racconto viene accompagnato da illustrazioni su carta. Kamishibai è una delle forme di intrattenimento tradizionali del Giappone, ed è l’origine dei manga e dei cartoni animati. Alcuni famosi fumettisti, come ad esempio Shigeru Mizuki, prima di diventare fumettisti disegnavano le illustrazioni di Kamishibai. Una delle opere più popolari, famosa anche all’estero, è Fantaman. Al museo il narratore di Kamishibai vende anche dagashi, merendine giapponesi di una volta.

Orari degli spettacoli:

lunedì-venerdì sabato-domenica
mattina 11:30
pomeriggio 14:00 12:00


tavole fumetti

Nel museo ci sono cinque sale per l’esposizione dei manga. La sala principale ospita l’esposizione permanente, mentre le altre quattro ospitano mostre speciali o a tema, e cambiano tre o quattro volte all’anno. Nelle esposizioni si possono vedere le tavole originali dei fumetti, che sono molto importanti per comprendere le intenzioni dell’autore, e  forniscono materiali di studio indispensabili per gli aspiranti fumettisti. Nelle foto sopra si vede la mostra “43 anni, 18000 tavole. Tutte le tavole originali di Tsuchida Seiki”  che era in corso quando abbiamo visitato il museo. Le tavole erano esposte sulle pareti e sul pavimento. Il contenuto delle esposizioni è vario: ad esempio, in passato ci sono state esposizioni di costumi creati imitando quelli dei personaggi dei manga.

Nel museo sono conservati circa trecentomila manga, e se ne possono leggere liberamente circa quarantamila. Nella “parete dei manga” sono raccolti manga a partire dal 1970. Il pianoterra è per i manga per ragazzi, il primo piano per quelli per ragazze. Il secondo piano è per i giovani adulti. Ad ogni piano ci sono cataloghi elettronici per la ricerca delle opere.

libreria manga

La “parete dei manga”


Al museo nei fine settimana si tengono corsi di disegno e colorazione dei manga. (Per i corsi di gruppo è necessaria la prenotazione.) Inoltre tutti i giorni si possono usare liberamente i computer per creare fumetti. E c’è l’angolo “bottega dei manga”, dove si possono vedere fumettisti professionisti al lavoro e fargli domande. Due o tre volte al mese si tengono anche eventi di cosplay (si veda il sito internet per i dettagli).
Inoltre c’è un angolo dove ci si può far fare il ritratto (giovedì, sabato, domenica e giorni festivi, dalle 11:00 alle 17:00; una persona 1000 yen, due 1800 yen, tre 2500 yen).

esibizione manga

La bottega dei manga


C’è naturalmente un negozio di souvenir dove si possono comprare tanti oggetti legati al mondo dei manga. Fra i visitatori italiani è molto popolare tenugui, un asciugamano giapponese, con motivi del manga Mazinga-Z. C’è un caffè ristorante sulle cui parete si vedono le firme di tanti fumettisti famosi, e alla ricezione c’è una signora che parla italiano!

Informazioni per la visita

• apertura: lunedì - domenica (10:00-18:00; ammissione visitatori fino alle 17:30)
• il mercoledì è chiuso
• biglietto: adulti 800 yen/ scuola media, liceo 300 yen/ scuola elementare 100yen


Karasuma-Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0846 Giappone
Tel: +8175-254-7414
Fax: +8175-254-7424

Prendete la metropolitana e scendete alla stazione di Karasumaoike. Potete prendere la metropolitana dalla stazione JR di Kyoto, dalla stazione Hankyu di Karasuma e dalla stazione Keihan di Keihansanjo.

※ Nel museo non si possono fare foto. Noi abbiamo ottenuto un permesso speciale per fotografare all’interno. ※


storia manga

La sala principale è molto grande, e alle pareti sono esposti i capolavori della storia dei manga. Al centro ci sono sezioni in cui il mondo dei manga è presentato da vari punti di vista: storico, economico, ecc.


disegni aiko

Sulle pareti dei corridoi del pianoterra e del primo piano si trova l’esposizione di cento disegni di Maiko (le giovani geisha). Ce n’è qualcuna che vi piace?


fumetti del momento

Scaffali con i manga popolari al momento.


manga internazionali

Nell’angolo “Esposizione Internazionale di Manga” ci sono fumetti stranieri


museo manga prato

Nelle belle giornate si possono leggere i manga sdraiati sull’erba


fenice tezuka osamu

©Tezuka Productions: Hi no Tori (la fenice) Riproduzione di un personaggio dei manga Osamu Tezuka, realizzata in legno con le tecniche tradizionali dell’artigianato buddista di Kyoto. Gli occhi sono di vetro.