The common term of Geisha, -or Geiko in Kyoto-, are the highly-qualified female entertainers who perform various Japanese classic traditional arts such as music, dance, games and conversation. And Maiko is a famous term as an apprentice of Geiko. Since a Maiko has to go through many years of apprenticeship, they are usually younger than the Geiko.
That means, incidentally seeing a geisha or geiko on the streets of Kyoto is in a matter of luck, because nowadays it’s not easy to take a picture of a true geiko. The woman with white face wearing kimono, is not always a geiko or even a maiko. At least from my experience…
One beautiful afternoon when I was wandering around Yasaka Pagoda, -in the area of Higashiyama, Kyoto-, from a house came out three white faced women with traditional hairstyle and wearing a beautiful kimono. All tourists who were around, including me, were surprised and amazed to their appearance and immediately took their pictures, because they were very attractive. They let the tourists taking their photos for a couple of minutes.
After so many photos, then a thought came to my mind… They seemed to be the three generation; the grandmother, the mother and the daughter. Are they true geiko and maiko or just tourists like me?
One person, it can be a possibility. Three? It seemed impossible.
In Kyoto, many places provide rental kimono for the tourists including the make-up and hair style like a geiko or maiko. So, were they the tourists like me? More likely they were not the true geiko, they’re just people who rent a kimono and were wearing make-up and hair style like a geisha or maiko.
From several sources I read, a true geiko usually refuses to make time for a group photo because of their tight schedules; they are always in a hurry. In addition, we can identify whether she is a true geiko or not from the collar of her kimono. The collar of kimono near the neck is always plain white for the geiko; and since maiko is still young, the collar of her kimono has decorative pattern with red dominant color. The length of the Geiko’s obi on the back is shorter than the Maiko’s. Other source says a true maiko does not paint her upper lip with full red color.
Well, I was wandering around the Kyoto’s traditional area in anticipation of seeing a geiko or a maiko but I met a fake one 😀
However, the presence of them who wore beautiful traditional Japanese clothing has given a color to my visit. Beside they looked nice, at least now I know a bit how to differentiate a genuine geisha from a tourist who pretends to be like one.