KYOTO: Gion Maiko- Geisha/Geiko
Kyoto Travel Blog› entry 13 of 18 › view all entries
Geisha compared to Maiko are less flamboyant. The kimono of the Geisha is usually of a subtle single colour with a design sweeping up from the hem, based on scenes of nature or traditional Japanese themes, in accordance with the seasons. Similarly the obi of the Geisha is more subtle and often a single colour brocade with minimalist obi belts and brooches.
Maiko are easily recognised by their attire. In the Japanese way, as young girls before they become women, the dress of the Maiko is more outlandish than that of the mature Geisha. The Obi and Kimono of a Maiko is brightly coloured and ornately decorated, the Kimono is of the Furisode style with long flapping sleeves that fall to the floor. The collar of the under-kimono worn by the Maiko is usually of a red and white patterned material, and shows vividly against the white neck of the Maiko.
Maiko have several different hair styles, which indicate the period of their apprenticeship that they have currently reached. Maiko use their own hair for such displays, rather than the wigs that contemporary Geisha wear. Traditionally it is a sign of a productive and hard apprenticeships to have a small bald patch from the ornate hair styles but as apprenticeships grow shorter and wigs more common this is a fading sign of a retired Geisha. The hair ornaments for a Maiko are plentiful and extravagant and are matched to the current season, usually displaying a fall of seasonal flowers constructed from beads.
Young girls may become Maiko at 16, under current Japanese law, as all adolescents must attend high school to this age. A Maiko's apprenticeship is usually 5 years, and so at 21 she may become a fully fledged Geisha.
As such an identifiable icon of Japanese traditional culture the Maiko are often in demand, especially for photography. A popular tourist activity in Kyoto is to catch a photograph of a Maiko hurrying to an appointment.