In Kyoto would you be dressed up in Maiko girls’ costume?

In Kyoto would you be dressed up in Maiko girls’ costume?

(Image1: Photo by (c) Gion Aya)


At a famous sightseeing spot, camera-toting tourists surround a maiko girl. It seems they feel lucky to come across a famous maiko who just smiles for their cameras. Hey guys, she is an ordinary girl participating in a maiko makeover plan.

However, don’t be disappointed because her costume is perfect and she is a rather good-looking girl. You can be proud of these photos taken here when you come back home.

Well then, let me introduce what maiko girls are and what they usually do. For female tourists, I tell you special information about how to transform yourself into beautiful maiko girls.

What is Maiko?

The working as maiko does not simply entertain male customers.

Maiko girls become apprentices with geiko who are real professional female entertainers. Their training starts at the age of about 15 and lasts for about four years in average!

They train traditional Japanese singing, dancing, and a Japanese stringed musical instrument called “shamisen” as well as elegant posture and conversation skills.

To reach a professional level, they have to continue training like that. To be a full-fledged geiko requires their strict life and efforts. It is beyond our imagination. After finishing their apprentice terms, they are considered to be full-grown geiko girls.


(Image2: Photo by (c) Gion Aya)


(Image3: Photo by (c) Gion Aya)


The History of Maiko

 The history of maiko dated back to the Edo period, about 300 years ago. There were many tea shops for prayers at the front of famous Yasaka shrine which is located at the east end of Kyoto. It is said  that female workers at this spot were the origin of maiko because they served not only tea but also singing, dancing and rice wine called “sake” which sounds familiar. These services gradually became sophisticated and the style took root in the district called “Gion” which is close to the shrine. This way of entertaining has reached completion as formal beauty.

Yasaka Shrine



The Difference between Geisha and Maiko

You have heard of the word, “geisha”. What is difference between geisha and maiko introduced in this article? In the same way, geisha also traditional female entertainers offering traditional performance. I already explained maiko are apprentices with professional geiko. Geisha are full-fledged female entertainers like geiko in Kyoto. As geiko educate maiko, geisha take apprentices called “hangyoku”. Although there are geisha and hangyoku all over Japan, the words “geiko and maiko” are used only in Kyoto. It has much to do with the long history in Kyoto as a source of culture.

What does Maiko’s Costume Represent?


To make maiko girls youthful and brilliant, various intriguing ingenuity is adopted. Unlike usual kimono sashes or “obi”, those of maiko are too long and they are called “darari-no-obi” meaning dangling obi which have an impact on making maiko more petite and girlish. Walking in high wooden clogs called “okobo” makes an adorable sound, which emphasizes their youthfulness.

Their hair accessories are called “kanzashi”. To be surprised, every month, they wear different types of kanzashi. A manager of “Gion Aya” offering Maiko Makeover Plans explains these twelve photos below. Kanzashi used in January symbolizes New Year, in February plum blossoms, in March narcissus, in April cherry blossoms, in May Japanese wisteria, in June hydrangea, in July summer flowers, in August dianthus, in September balloon flower, in October chrysanthemum, in November colourful autumn leaves, in December small tree branches decorated with rice cake.

These hair accessories are typical of Japan which has four clear-cut seasons and is blessed with the rich natural environment.


Okobo or high wooden clogs



Darari-no-obi” or dangling obi

(Image6: Photo by (c) Gion Aya)


Amazingly beautiful twelve monthly kanzashi or heir accessories

(Image7~18:Photo by (c) Gion Aya)

(Image7:In January Symbolized New Year)

(Image8:In February Plum blossoms)

(Image9:In March Narcissus)

(Image10:In April Chery blossoms)

(Image11:In May Japanese wisteria)

(Image12:In June Hydrangea)

(Image13:In July Summer flowers)

(Image14:In August Dianthus)

(Image15:In September Balloon flower)

(Image16:In October Chrysanthemum)

(Image17:In November Colourful autumn leaves)

(Image18:In December Branches decorated with rice cake)


Maiko Makeover Plans

Have I kept you waiting? Well, I explain special information I first promised female tourists to introduce. Maiko girls wearing characteristic colourful kimono is one of the symbols of Kyoto, the ancient capital in Japan. Just looking at beautiful their costume, some also would like to be dressed up in the same. There are many salons offering “Maiko Makeover Plans”

Today, shall we visit the salon named “Gion Aya” which is one of those? This wooden structure was built nearly 100 years ago. It was used to be a rent parlor called “ochaya” where geiko and maiko actually entertained customers some time ago.

In that sense, the interior and Japanese-style garden are completely suitable for a photo studio.

When you visit the salon, you don’t arrange anything at all by yourself. All you can to do is to make a reservation.

Are you ready? What? Last night you were too nervous to sleep and now anxious about your skin tone! Don’t worry. You can leave everything to professional staff members in the fields of makeup and photography. You will soon turn yourself to a picturesque maiko girl.

The entrance

(Image19:Photo by (c) Gion Aya)


The wooden entrance with a grille is characteristic of the architecture of Kyoto.

Studio in Japanese-style room

(Image20:Photo by (c) Gion Aya)


This traditional Japanese-style room is the perfection of beauty. The tokonoma, kakejiku (an alcove and a hanging scroll) and tigaidana (set of staggered shelves built into the wall) are elaborated by time-served craftspeople.

Kyoto-style spot garden

(Image21:Photo by (c) Gion Aya)


Entering the garden, we have a look at a bench covered with a dazzling scarlet carpet. The fences of a garden are made of natural materials. Today, we can hardly see such superb gardens in ordinary Japanese houses.

Kyoto has today various types of gardens which have been gradually transformed to something new.

Kyoto Keeps Waiting for Your Visits.

As mentioned above, the culture of maiko does not depend on only beautiful girls. Their costume requires the craft such as the tradition of silk fabric, special technique of denying and handiwork like kanzashi or hair accessories. Japanese-style room called “ozashiki” is introduced by long-time accumulation, let alone traditional entertainment and performance. The culture of maiko is cultivated by the long history of Kyoto.

(Image22: Photo by (c) Gion Aya)


“Yonde Kurahatte Honmani Ookini”

It is a typical and elegant Kyoto dialect, meaning

“Thank you very much for reading this article!”

Advice and Photo Credit by “Gion Aya” Maiko and Geisha Makeover Plans in Kyoto

Reference: An NHK TV program, 174th “Bi-no-tsubo” in the explanation of `Darari-obi” and “okobo”.


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