I’m going to be doing a complete new update on my Maiko/Geiko guide. Since I last posted it, a lot of Maiko and Geiko have joined the profession and others have retired, so my list is 1: incomplete, and 2: outdated. This will be my winter break project~ Promise~
As I’ve said over and over again, I’ve been studying the Geisha culture for about 8 months now, I’m sure I’ll still be studying them months if not years in the future. My next greatest challenge is being able to identify Geisha by name, to help me with this I’m going to make a guide to geisha by their pictures, name, and Okiya. This is for my own personal use, but you can use it as well, all the pictures were retrieved from either Google images or Tumblr. If you don’t want to use it that’s fine, you get to browse through several pictures of gorgeous geisha and Maiko. For the ones who’s names I know but who’s Okiya I don’t exactly know or if they are retired or not, they will be at the bottom
I’m going to start this in Gion Kobu, so Ge
isha are actually called Geiko
Geiko: Mameji (She is the Okaa-san of the okiya)
Debuted: May 16th 2011
Mamesada: can’t find picture, if you have one, I would be happy to post it and give you credit~
Mameaki: Can’t find picture
(Mametomi and Mamefusa)
Mametomi and Mameroku!
Okiya: Bi no Yae
Makoto: (One of the most famous Geisha in Kyoto)
She’s in the middle ^^
Debuted in 2011!
Mayuno Can’t find picture
Marino Another I can’t find a picture of D;
She quit very soon after her debut, so there aren’t many pictures of her available.
Ayano (She’s very popular, and it’s easy to see why~)
Ayano as Maiko with A Geiko named Momiyuki
Ayano and Maiko Fumino are up front. The young Shikomi behind them will soon move on to become Maiko Kiyono. Technically these are all three active Geisha and Maiko of Fukushima Okiya out of their full regalia. ^^
Young Ayano as a first year Maiko~ Look how young she looks! She would only be about 15 or 16 years old here
Ayano is in the front and Fumino is in the back ^^
Kiyono (She debuted pretty recently after I had already done a fair amount of research on the Maiko and Geiko lifestyle and was the first recent debut pictures I had seen, so she holds a special place in my heart~)
(This is one of her pictures from her debut, she was so cute and giggly, this was the only picture where she didn’t have a laugh going on)
She’s in the pink kimono in the back
Because she is so freshly debuted, her misedashi was in late April of 2013 there aren’t a whole lot of pictures of her that I can find of her.
Maiko Kotono: She actually debuted with Ayano but had quit a few months after her debut.
Ayano with Kotono
I will be posting more in another part, starting with Hiroshimaya Okiya~
Now following up on my post about how to tell real Geisha and Maiko from tourists that happen to be dressed up I want to talk about the different types of kimono and how the kimono came to be. I am in no way an expert on this matter, this is just information I’ve gathered from different sources. If I get something wrong, please let me know and I’ll fix it right away.
First a little history lesson. Some may know that Japan was originally a part of China until they won their independence from them hundreds and hundreds of years ago. When this gain of independence happened Japan was determined to create their own culture, including the clothing. Clothes from China were tailor made, this process made it expensive to get clothing for families and difficult to mass produce, also nearly impossible to pass down through the generations. So some witty women made a way to create clothing that can last a longer time and be passed down from person to person, this was the method of square sewing, you see, if you look at a kimono, you will see that basically every part of the fabric is a square (or rectangle for you literal people) they could wrap the clothing around themselves and tie a sash (That eventually evolved to an Obi) around themselves to hold the kimono in place so there was a lot of room for different body types. Though Kimono were initially worn by peasants, and as the undergarments of dignitaries they have become the national clothing and the national symbol of Japan. Women, though underestimated in the culture actually played a huge part in the culture, including in the writing, women weren’t allowed to be educated enough to recognize many of the complicated characters that were brought over from China, so what did they do? They created a completely new writing system now known as Hirigana and Katakana. The first kimonos were very basic, but along with the culture they evolved to be quite refined. Much of the process of putting on a kimono these days isn’t even seen, what with all of the wrapping, undergarments, and pillows used to keep everything straight and to keep the column like shape that kimono are known for.
Now that the history lesson is over, we can look at some different types of kimono
First I want to cover the underkimono, the ones that you don’t really see, or that you see only the edge of but are still necessary in proper kimono.
The bottom most kimono is called a han-juban. It’s basically the kimono version of underwear. The material is very light and unlined and is only about as long as a shirt. It’s main function is to keep the expensive silk away from the wearers skin, seeing as how skin can get oily and sweaty and the silk is quite difficult to clean. A woman will also wear a sort of wrap around her waist that will act as skirt of sorts, called a sasoyke.
The second underkimono is called a Juban. You’ll see a bit of the juban at the very edge of the outer kimono sleeves and colar and on the inner part of back part of the collar that comes off a girls neck. You’ll also see the juban when a girl lifts up her kimono, the most likely place you would see this is with Geisha and Maiko when they lift up their kimono to walk through the streets. The juban is much shorter than a normal kimono and doesn’t require the tucking that a normal kimono would need. Though many people who buy kimono would think that this is a full kimono, that’s not the case. The Juban can be made out of just about any material, though because it’s going to be under the main kimono, a lighter silk or linen is preferred to make sure that everything isn’t too hot. They may or may not be lined, depending on how formal you want to be.
The Yukata is one of the least formal kimono. They are basically summer kimono meant to be worn during festivals or even just going out. Because they are meant to be worn during the warmer weather they are unlined and are normally made of linen or cotton, so they can easily breath. They are also often used by spas, hot springs, or bath houses for the guests to wear. Normally every household has a few yukata because they are the cheapest, unlike other kimono which are normally rented.
A Komon Kimono is the next in line for formality. They are slightly more formal than Yukata and are meant to be worn every day. They are known by having an all over pattern and are lined. They have the shortest variety of sleeve, along with Yukata and a few more kimono.
Of course the length of the sleeve doesn’t have much to do with the formality, it just depends on the type of kimono.
The first adult kimono a person will wear are called Iro Muji and Kuro Muji. The difference between the two being the color and the formality. The lesser formal of the two is the Iro Muji, this is the one that has any color other than black (The black on is called the Kuro Muji). They can be won at both formal and casual events. When crests are added (called mon) the term tomesode will be added at the back of the names, as in iro muji tomesode. Mon are added at the bottom of the back of the collar, the back shoulders and the front shoulders and can be in numbers like 1, 3, and 5. The more mon, the more formal the kimono is. The kuro muji is often worn as mourning garb. The amount of black signifies what stage of mourning a person is at, as in, at the beginning stage, the entire outfit is black, including the obi, hakama, whatever accessories, slowly color will be added as the person goes through those stages of mourning.
The Tsukesage is slightly more formal than the Iro and Kuro muji. I couldn’t really find a place where they would be worn though sadly, I would guess at some social events. They can be any color and are discernible with a continuous pattern going around the bottom and the middle of the front of the kimono and a small design on the back of one sleeve and the front of another.
The Houmongi is the next kimono in line of formality. It’s known for the fact that the pattern joins up over the seams. There’s a small pattern that is also commonly on the front and back shoulders. The pattern also goes up over the front as well as the back and is also on the sleeves. This outfit is used for visiting others and going to parties. It’s one of the more formal kimono and should be worn with formal accessories, a brocade for the obi is usually worn with it.
A Tomesode is much like a Houmongi accept that it is normally black or a very very dark color (I say normally because it is possible to have a tomesode with color These are called Iro Tomesode or Irosode) painted on the tomesode is a very complex design at the hem that connects through the seems, this design will go to about as high as the knee. This Kimono is worn by married women at formal occasions such as weddings. Like the Kuro Muji and Iro Muji, Mon (crests) are used on the kimono, again, the more crests, the more formal the kimono is.
The only reason why I have the Furisode as more formal than the Tomesode is because they are more ornate, though they aren’t any more formal than Tomesode. Furisode are worn by young women before they get married. The Furisode is known for the long length of their sleeves, there are three lengths of Furisode sleeve, the longer the sleeve he more formal, the longest is almost floor length, so it’s not uncommon to see girls walking around with the sleeves wrapped around their arm to save them from getting dirtied by the ground. The occasions a young woman would wear this type of kimono are their graduation (usually worn with a Hakama which is a type of very baggy pant, you might see pictures of samurai or martial artists wearing them), a wedding, or coming of age day (A special day that celebrates 20 year olds, which is when a person is considered an adult in Japan) they may also just rent them out when they go through touristy areas like Kyoto. The color and design of the pattern varies but makes no difference in terms of the formality of the kimono.
Special occasion Kimono
This section is to highlight kimono that wouldn’t normally be worn by normal people of Japan, meaning they are worn by dancers, geisha, maiko, and Brides on their wedding day. If you see someone wearing these kimono it’s certainly a special occasion and a rare sight. The way I have these listed has no meaning, they’re not more important or rare-er they’re just listed off.
Odori Katamigawari, that’s a mouthful. These kimono are worn by dancers and performers and are known for being half one (or more) color and half another color (or design if one so chooses). These kimono are made of synthetic material so they can be more easily washed and are unlined to keep the performers cooler. Keep in mind the Odori Katamigawari is not the only kimono used in performances, basically any type of kimono can be used in dances, they just stick the word Odori in front of it (Odori translates to Dance) for example, if a tomesode were used in a dance (again unlined and made of synthetic material) it would be called an Odori Tomesode. You would not normally see a person wearing these kimono unless they were in a dance or were acting out a performance.
A Shirokakeshita is the traditional kimono a bride would wear during a shinto wedding. Think of this wedding kimono as the wedding dress we wear during western weddings, the white is to signify pureness, but it goes a bit deeper than that, because it also signifies the brides willingness to be colored by the family she is marrying in to(As in the customs, values, and traditions). This kimono also has sleeves like that on a furisode and can have padding around the hem, the reason they do this is so, as the bride is walking, it drags on the ground in an appealing way, again comparing it to western weddings, think of the veil and the train of the dress. Though this kimono is important the Bride can go through as many as 5 costume changes during her wedding, though in modern times many opt to just go through 2 or 3 costume changes, ending with a black tomesode (remember, they’re for married women).
The Uchikake is another kimono a girl will wear during her wedding, like the Shirokakeshita it has a padded hem and Furisode sleeves. Unlike the Shirokakeshita it has a colorful design, unless the wedding is a shinto wedding in which, again, it will be white. It’s worn more like a coat, over the Shirokakeshita or the Kakeshita (covered next) and does not have an obi tied around it. The hem will be held up by the bridesmaids while the bride is walking down the isle.
The final wedding kimono is called the Kakeshita. This kimono is worn in place of the shirokakeshita and instead of it being white, it’s very colorful, again with a padded hem and the furisode sleeves. Though it’s not as popular to wear as the Shirokakeshita brides can opt to change into this if they wish.
The Hikizuri is the kimono that Geisha and Maiko wear. For a Maiko the sleeves are long with a tuck in the sleeves and a tuck in the shoulders to mimic what parents do to children’s kimono. As for the Geisha, the sleeves are cut short, to the same kind as a tomesode and the patterns and design are more mature. The hikizuri is almost like a kakeshita wedding kimono in the sense that it’s made to be dragged on the ground with the padded hem. The Maiko and Geisha use their kimono in their dance, moving in them gracefully and lifting them up revealing the Juban while walking through the streets from appointment to appointment. This is made all the more difficult with the traditional high okobo shoes they wear.
I hope this helps, as you can see this mainly concentrates on kimono women wear, that’s because women have the most variety in kimono. If I got anything wrong please let me know, this took quite a while to write but hopefully it will help people in recognizing the types of kimono.
I may make another on the different types of accessories, but I’m not promising anything. XD
A young woman dressed in absolutely elaborate Kimono bustles about through the streets of Gion. Her white make up shines reflecting the bright sun or dim moon depending on the time of day. Her red lips look like a rose petal laying gracing on freshly fallen snow. She is an important symbol of Japan. One that is built up over hundreds of years of tradition in the arts of her country. She is a Geisha, or Geiko as they are called in Kyoto. Though some aspects have changed through the years they are still artists and still symbols of Japan. But there is a problem, with all of the economic and cultural differences in the Geisha and Maiko community, Geisha and Maiko are becoming more and more rare, some might even consider them a dying culture. While there were once tens of thousands of Geisha and Maiko, there are now only a couple thousand at most, Geisha only reaching numbers in the hundreds.
The popularity of Maiko and Geisha have cause something interesting to happen. Tourists who visit Kyoto are now able to be dressed up as Maiko for a fee at establishments called “Henshin” Studios which are popping up more and more around Kyoto, depending on the price you want to pay certain studios can make you look very close to real, even use your real hair instead of a wig. After they are dressed up they are given a mini photoshoot in their new pretty kimono and painted faces and are allowed to wander through the streets of Kyoto where more tourists take pictures of them, mistaking them for real Maiko. There are select features that these Henshin studios get wrong on purpose, because if they make them look absolutely authentic, they risk getting shut down by the authorities. Before I point these characteristics out I would first like to give some insight to becoming a Maiko in this modern era. I think one of the best ways to do this is to explain the different stages that they go through.
Back in the old days young girls were sold to Okiya (houses where Geisha live) to become Maiko and eventually Geisha. These days girls can choose to join an Okiya at the age of 15. At this point, they are “Shikomi” this means they basically work as a maid to the Okiya. The okaa-san (Mother and owner of the okiya who basically funds the girls training, provides the food and kimono and teaches them valuable lessons such as how to walk in a kimono and how to have witty conversation with her future patrons, also how to play games that she will eventually be playing with her future patrons) wants to break and make the young Shikomi. The Shikomi must listen to the okaa-san and do what she says with absolute cooperation. If she doesn’t, she risks being kicked out of the okiya. It’s also important to know this is the very beginning of her training, and possibly the most difficult. Not only must she stay up late waiting for her Maiko and Geiko housemates to help them remove their kimono and makeup, sometimes this can be as late as 3 in the morning, but they must also wake up the next day to go to their lessons and do their chores. Along with this, they cannot speak to their family or friends for 6 months, which is about the amount of time that this stage lasts, depending on how well the okaa-san thinks the Shikomi is doing. Finally a Shikomi will take a difficult dance and arts test to see if they are fit to go to the next level.
The next stage is a Misedashi. Shikomi graduate to this level after 6 months of working. This will be the first time she will wear the elegant kimono and famous white makeup. This will also be the first time her hair will be worked into the first of many complicated hairstyles that she will wear through her career as a Maiko. During this stage the young Maiko will take on an “onee-san” translated to Older sister. This Geiko will be responsible for introducing the Maiko to several of her future patrons, and in the next level they will take her little sister to several of the events and parties that she will attend. This stage is also the one in which the Okaa-san will introduce the young Maiko to the various people who will help her in her career, namely the ochiya, or tea houses, the wig and hair dressers, and the various kimono sales people. This is a very exiting time for the Maiko and is a public event complete with huge banners with the Maikos new professional name painted across them and a party at the end of her debut as a maiko. This name will contain elements of her Okiya and will be picked by a person who’s profession is to choose names that will bring the Maiko luck and prosperity. This is a lot more complicated than it seems, because not only must they use elements from the okiya, but stroke order and number are also very important to be considered.
The next stage is one of the most popular for tourists to dress up as. It’s their Minarai stage, the one where she learns by watching, which is what she will be doing for about half of this stage. Along with the hairstyle and makeup and beautiful kimono, she now has a very recognizable hair ornament with dangling pieces of silk which end about at her chin. Now that she is a recognized member of the Geiko community she will be allowed to go with her Onee-san to her various event, whether invited or not though patrons normally happily welcome the new Maiko. The first part of this stage she will simply sit and watch her older sister preform and converse with her patrons. After a while she will do small performances and converse with some of the patrons, though under the close watch and guard of her dear Older sister. This stage will last a year, and sometimes Minarai are referred to as junior Maiko because they are not yet able to preform on their own without the assistance of either her onee-san or a more senior Maiko.
Finally the girl has reached the stage where she can officially become a Maiko. At this stage she can go to her own parties and banquets and can preform at festivals but will always join her onee-san at her events. A maiko will go through a few more hair styles and her predominately red collar will slowly start to turn white, at which point she will graduate to become a Geiko. Normally this stage will last about 4 to 5 years and both her top and bottom lips will be painted. She will also get rid of the recently mentioned hair ornament with the pieces of dangly silk replacing it with different hair ornaments that will determine what level she is at.
As I mentioned before, after 4 or 5 years a maiko will graduate into a geiko in which they will undergo a ceremony which just as her debut as a maiko, will be very public as she debuts as a Geiko. This ceremony is called Erikae, otherwise known as the turning of the collar where the collar will be turned to completely white. Normally girls make it to this level around the age of 20. But this isn’t the only thing that changes, a Geiko will get a totally new hair style, which can actually be a wig if she likes (This has changed since the old days because the harsh hairstyles used to cause premature baldness in girls, now most Geiko prefer to use wigs instead of their natural hair.) The Geiko will also get a completely new style of Obi (One that isn’t as high up but more like traditional obis, this is to give them more of a mature look, it also has more of a square knot in the back instead of the long dangling obi knots in the back that Maiko wear) and she is given a more mature kimono, instead of the colorful and bright kimono with the long sleeves that Maiko wear, they have more toned down solid colors with details of nature painted on them, their sleeves are also much shorter like a tomesode instead of the furisode. If a Geiko has paid off all of her debts to the okiya she can either leave to live independently, open her own ochiya, or continue living at the okiya to continue working for them and being provided for and keep paying them back.To be honest, not many Maiko make it to the level of Geiko because of how difficult the lifestyle is. And even when girls make it to Geiko, they often retire within 5 years of their debut. This can be because of any number of reasons, whether they are tired of the lifestyle, if they want to pursue a different career, or if they want to marry. Either way, these Geiko are highly celebrated and have a huge fan base, not only around Kyoto and Japan but all over the world.
Some other information about Maiko and Geisha:
~No they are not prostitutes. Sex is not a part of their lifestyle unless they choose to have sex with a person, even then it’s not in their job description and they are not paid for it.
~They will not normally stop to have their pictures taken with tourists, they are busy and need to get to their appointments, their patrons not only pay for the time that they are with them, but also pay their fee while they are trying to make it to their appointments.
~You will not normally see them in their full regalia before 5pm, I’ll explain later
Alright, that was a bit long, and even longer to type out, but I think it’s important to know about the different stages to geisha-hood to understand a lot of the different ways to spot a tourist who is simply playing dress up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very nice to see all these women dressed up in beautiful kimono and white faces, but some tourists get rowdy and do things that are distasteful, these actions can give others who assume these girls to be real a bad impression of real Maiko and Geiko. Also, who wouldn’t want to get a picture of a real Maiko or Geiko as they bustle through the streets of Gion? At the end of this tutorial on how to tell the real from the fake, I will give you a quick lesson on how to catch real Geiko and Maiko~.
First let’s look at a quick picture,
First off, do you remember when we were discussing the Minarai? You can see this girl wearing the hair ornament that is characteristic of a Minarai junior maiko, yet she is wearing something extra. Both of her lips are painted. True Minarai only have their bottom lip painted. Also, look at the collar of her under kimono. It has colors that the under kimono of a maiko or geiko would never have. Those colors would only be red, gold, and white (or a creamy color), this under collar has all sorts of colors like blue, purple, green, orange, in fact there’s very minimal reds, which wouldn’t happen for a minarai.
There are three main things I want to point out with this picture. First is the age. Remember, maiko at this stage are only about 15 or 16 years old. This woman is quite a bit older. Second, and this is a bit difficult to see, but you might be able to see what I’m talking about around her hair line and especially by her ear, this woman is wearing a wig. I saved saying this until now, but another aspect that is concentrated on in the shikomi stage is growing out your hair. A Maiko will not wear a wig unless it’s for a special occasion in which her hair isn’t made into the traditional “over ear” style like a festival where they preform plays. But don’t take real hair as being a clear sign of a real Maiko, a tourist can pay a fee to have her natural hair worked into either the full style or a half wig, which is pretty tricky to spot. Finally look at her under collar once more, it’s completely white, which is way too much white for that stage Maiko.
There are quite a few signs with this tourist, besides the signs I have already mentioned she is wearing Okobo which are simply too short, though a maiko may wear shorter okobo on certain occasions, it wouldn’t be while she is simply walking to work. She also has her kimono tied up. Maiko are trained to be able to handle their kimono with grace, carrying it while she walks, the only time she would have it tied up is if she was doing a performance that called for her kimono being tied up or if she had her hands full, and not only with that basket. Speaking of that basket, it’s far too empty, that basket should be filled with all of the things a Maiko could possibly need to go out and entertain her guests, that means it should practically be bubbled with stuff. Finally, her kimono is tucked incorrectly at the shoulders, it should be tucked practically up on top of her shoulder instead of halfway down her upper arm.
Now there are girls who can dress up past the Minarai stage, I don’t exactly know how to determine if those are real or fake, though I am confident that all the pictures I posted in the section explaining the different stages is correct. I will research that and post what I have found when I can. Here are some other tips on how to tell if a girl is a real or fake maiko.
~If you find a girl in her full regalia in the middle of the afternoon, chances are she’s a tourist and nothing more. In fact you may walk right past a real maiko in the middle of the day without even knowing it. (I’ll provide a picture of some real maiko without their outfits later)
~Just because a girl has a seal on the bottom of her obi doesn’t necessarily mean she’s real. These Henshin places have seals of their own that they put on.
~A maiko probably won’t be traveling through a populated area, they are like celebrities and already have a hard enough time getting from one place to the other without being mauled by the paparazzi, they generally take the backstreets away from all of the people.
~A maiko or Geisha does not need an escort to get to their places or help them walk. So if you see one holding the hand of someone else or even of another Maiko, chances are they are fake. Now, there are a group of people that assist them in keeping the paparazzi in line, though they do not need their assistance in terms of looking where to go or being able to handle themselves.
~Maiko wouldn’t be stopping to take pictures with tourists, as I had mentioned earlier, her patrons pay for the time it takes for her to get to her place as well.
~ It’s also important to note that Maiko and Geiko wear kimono that correspond with the season. You wouldn’t see one wearing a kimono intended for Summer in the winter, or a Fall kimono in the spring, think of it like this; you wouldn’t wear something that you would wear in the winter during the summer either. You would look silly.
~Along with the kimono corresponding to the seasons, the Kanzashi hair ornaments also correspond to the seasons and months, so, if you caught a Maiko or Geiko and aren’t sure if they are real or fake, it’s always smart to look at a kanzashi chart. Here’s one that I found but if you don’t see yours there, then you may try to find another source. http://www1.odn.ne.jp/maya/english/kanzashi.htm
Now, how to catch a real Maiko or Geiko out and about? One of the best ways is by going to one of their parades or festivals, but if you don’t find yourself there at the right time, I would recommend hanging out by the tea houses and okiya around 5pm, that’s when they come out. If you’re around before then look out for the famed hair style. If you do happen to find a real Maiko be prepared for the hordes of paparazzi, and please don’t feel offended if she doesn’t stop to take a picture with you or poses for a picture, they are on the clock after all. Also, please please please don’t shout out to them or try to touch them! As one famous Maiko said “We are not Mickey mouse and this is not Disney World, we are not here to entertain the public, we are here to entertain our patrons.” To touch the kimono of a Maiko or Geiko would be like dumping mud on a Ferrari, after all, those kimono can cost upwards of 30,000 dollars. If you’re brave, you can always ask nicely to take a picture of them, but do it quickly and always be respectful.
On a couple final notes I am in no way an expert. I have used several references but have coppied and pasted none of it. This is just a conglomeration of all the information I have acquired over a few months of research. If I get any information wrong, please let me know and I will fix it right away. I own NONE of these pictures, they are all from different sources I have found through google. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them, I will happily view and respond to them~