Asia

Notes on Japan: geishas and maikos by Míriam

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If there is something typical of Kyoto, apart from the Kinkakuji and the Kiyomizudera, it is the geishas and the maikos (apprenticeships of geisha). Although in Japan there are other cities with geisha districts (they exist in Tokyo, Nara, Osaka, Aichi, Kanazawa ...), no other place is as famous for its geisha as Kyoto.

The geishas, ​​contrary to popular belief, are not high class prostitutes (this role was assumed by the courtesans, called Oiran or Tayuu), but artists who entertain with music, dance, poetry and conversation. The word geisha means precisely "artist," and they appeared in the 17th century. As a curiosity, tell you that the first geisha were men.

In Kyoto, geishas are called geikos (literally, art women), and apprentices are called maikos (little dancer, or dancer girl). Geikos and maikos live in districts called hanamachi (flower cities) and in Kyoto there are five: Gion Kobu (the most famous), Gion Higashi, Miyagawa-cho, Pontocho and Kamishichiken. Each hamamachi has its annual festival during which you can attend dance performances by its geikos and maikos.

At the beginning of the twentieth century there were about 80,000 geisha in Japan but, after the war and economic crises, there are currently only a little more than 1,000 left. Despite the downturn, it seems that lately there is a small rebound in the number of geisha and more Girls attracted by the profession contact geisha houses (often online) to become apprentices. A girl who wants to be a maiko must have completed compulsory education (normally they are between 15 and 16 years old) and pass a training period of one year or so to become a maiko. Once she becomes a maiko, she receives a professional name and can now attend tea houses (ochayas) to entertain clients. But it will be about 5 or 6 years before he “graduates” and becomes a geiko. The difference between a maiko and a geiko, in broad strokes, is that a maiko wears long-sleeved kimonos (furisode type) and vivid colors, with the obi hanging, and wears her own hair combed and adorned with colorful flowers and other ornaments . A geiko, on the other hand, wears kimonos with short sleeves (tomesode type) and more serious colors, with the obi collected, and wears a wig (called katsura) with very little ornamentation. It is said that this difference is due to the fact that the maikos are still inexperienced, so they offset their lack of experience with a more colorful appearance and, on the other hand, geikos already dominate the arts more and do not depend so much on their external beauty as on his own elegance and artistic skills ...

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