Thursday, 3 April 2014
Geisha, Geiko or Maiko? What's the difference?
Yesterday I finally saw a Geisha after living in Kyoto for nine months. I was wandering around Gion taking photos of the cherry blossom when I was lucky enough to come across an event where they were posing for photos to celebrate spring. When Geisha walk around Gion they hurry along to avoid getting bombarded by tourists taking their photos. But at this event photography was encouraged. This meant that I got to take lots of close up photos of the details in their outfits. I thought these photos would be useful to help explain what the difference is between Geisha, Geiko and Maiko.
So, to start of with, a Geisha is a woman of the arts, who is trained in traditional dancing, music and singing. In Tokyo, these women are called Geisha, and in Kyoto they are called Geiko. So technically I saw a Geiko. However, Geisha is a more widely recognised term and can be used to describe Geisha and Geiko. A Maiko is an apprentice Geiko. The word Maiko literally translates as dancing child. In Tokyo an apprentice Geisha is known as Hangyoku.
Ok, so we now know that in Tokyo you have Geisha and Hangyoku. Then in Kyoto you have Geiko and Maiko. But how can you tell the difference? Below I am going to try and explain how to recognise Geiko and Maiko. In the photos the Geiko is wearing a green kimono and the Maiko is wearing a pink kimono.
Age: Because Maiko have to go through several years of apprenticeship they are much younger than Geiko. Although with all that white make up on it is hard to guess their age.
Hair: The main difference in hairstyle is that Geiko wear wigs whereas Maiko have their hair styled naturally. Also Maiko usually have more ornaments in their hair.
Make up: Both Maiko and Geiko paint their faces white, but Maiko usually wear more pink blush on their cheeks. Also Junior Maiko only paint the bottom lip red, Senior Maiko paint a thin line on both lips and Geiko paint all of their lips.
Collar: Maiko usually have red and white collars with a decorative pattern whereas Geiko have a plain white collar.
Obi: Obi are the wide belts of stiff fabric which wrap around the waist. As you can see in the photo above, the Maiko's obi drapes down the back but a Geiko's obi is shorter and more like a square.
Shoes: Maiko wear high wooden shoes which look extremely difficult to walk in. Geiko wear much lower shoes.
I hope this has been useful for anyone who has always wondered what the difference is between Geisha, Geiko and Maiko. I am by no means an expert on this subject so I am sorry if I got some details wrong.