Geisha, Geiko and Maiko

As the Japan Fans Utrecht wish to form friendship bonds with Japan Fans from all over the world, we are very happy to announce this second guest blog written by Klara!

Klara is a Japan Fan from Croatia who graduated in Japanese Language and Culture from the universities of Pula (Croatia) and Kyoto (Japan). In this blog, she will teach us some of the differences between Geisha, Geiko and Maiko.

The main role of geisha, geiko and maiko is to entertain guests by giving elegant dance and other performances at parties and other events. But not only that, they also do things like pour drinks and engage in conversation, as well as entertain the guests by playing traditional games with them. Their history is long and there is so much to talk about, but let us just focus on the differences between the geisha, geiko and maiko.

MAIKO 舞子(舞 “mai“ = dance ; 子 “ko“ = child)

To say it shortly: maiko are the apprentice geisha who are still training. Since maiko is still training, she would speak less and usually nods or smiles during a conversation. They are usually between 15-20 years of age. They must live in the “mother”s house and depend on the little stipend she receives from the geisha house (which is very different from the geishas). To become a geisha, they have to go through 3–5year training and sometimes the maiko stage can last 7-8 years. On top of that, they have to train everyday to master the shamisen.

Appearance of a maiko:

their outfits are more eye-catching (to divert attention from the lack of knowledge and experience)
only the lower lip is red and they put a red color around their eyes
they don’t use a wig, they show their natural hair
they wear a hairstyle: Wareshinobu with a lot of flower ornaments and hairpins
they wear a brightly colored long sleeve kimono
the back of the neck shows the inside of the kimono (usually red and white)
the obi is long and colorful

GEISHA 芸者(芸 “gei” = art ; 者 “sha” = person)

Geisha are professional artists who are registered in official geisha associations and excel in traditional Japanese arts and crafts such as shamisen playing, dancing, and tea ceremony. Unlike the maiko, a geishas are more independent and live in a separate house of their own in the geisha neighborhoods. They are older than 20 years old and they become already an expert on how to initiate and maintain a conversation in any circumstance and keep the atmosphere entertained.

Appearance of a geisha:
their fashion is usually more mature and subtle
their face is completely in white
only the lower lip is red
even though they wear red color around the eyes, the amount is much less than in maiko
they don’t use their own natural hair, but a wig
they have a lot of different hairstyles but they use a lot less hair ornaments
the collars are white

GEIKO(芸 “gei” = art 子 ; “go” = child)

Geiko is the word that refers to geisha in the Kyoto dialect. The difference between a “geiko” and a “geisha” is minimalistic and nowadays the term “geisha” is used for referring to the “geiko” as well.