Young Geisha in Kyoto Region
The term "Maiko" refers to a young geisha or a geisha apprentice. "Maiko" is the name used in Kyoto Prefecture (also in Osaka, and Nara Prefectures, etc). It corresponds to "Hangyoku (child geisha, apprentice entertainer)" or "Oshaku (person pouring alcohol for guests or customers)" in the Kanto region. The "Maiko (舞妓)" was written as "Maiko (舞子)" in past times, and she learned customer service skills at ozashiki (banquets in which guests were attended by geisha) at the age of 9 - 12 and stood on her feet through the training of entertainment, but now no young girls can become Maiko until she graduates junior high school in accordance with the revision of the Child Welfare Act and the Labor Standards Law after the war.
Transition of Hairstyle in Training Period of Maiko
Usually, after a 'training' period from a half to two years, Maiko wear a sash of 'Handarari,' which is half as long as darari no obi (long draping sash) as 'an apprentice' for a month and trains herself with senior geisha at a tea house. If admitted by the mistress of the geisha dwelling and the tea house association, she can debut as a new Maiko ('Misedashi'). At ozashiki and on the stage both geisha and maiko are heavily-powdered with Shironuri (white makeup), but while a geisha usually wears a wig, Maiko dresses her hair in traditional Japanese style and wears a gorgeous ornate hairpin, tsumami-kanzashi (a decorative hair pin) featuring something like flowers of each season. The hair style of Maiko at the early stage is 'wareshinobu,' which turns to be 'Ofuku' in a few years later, and 1 - 4 weeks before erigae (promoted to a full-fledged geisha) she dresses 'sakko fashion (Maiko's hairstyle)' and puts teeth black (she does not paint eyebrows, which can be regarded as the custom of Hangempuku (attaining womanhood informally) continuing still now).
Maiko is a Symbol of Kyoto
Many Maiko are promoted to full-fledged geisha around the age of 20. In accordance with the public stance that she is an apprentice because she is young, Maiko surely wears a long-sleeved kimono pulled in a tuck at the shoulders and sleeves. Since Maiko wear gaudy costumes such as Pokkuri (Koppori or 'Okobo' in Kyoto, girl's lacquered wooden clogs) and darari no obi, it could be said that Maiko is a more representative figure at red-light districts in Kyoto and vicinity, rather than geisha. Maiko is mainly in charge of dancing at ozashiki and performs the dancing of Kyomai Inoue school in Gion Kobu district and other dancing such as the Wakayagi school in other districts. She is trained to use the Kyoto dialect without regard to her origin, and consequently, Maiko is often treated as if she is a symbol of Kyoto.
Change of Maiko Traditions in Contemporary Japan
The main business is entertainment at a tea house, but recently other business such as TV appearance, visiting care facilities or hospitals and going abroad are increasing. The red-light district which was a closed space of 'No first-time customers' seemed to have gradually opened its doors to outsiders. In fact, it is said that some geisha dwellings which have no Maiko are recruiting applicants for Maiko through the Internet. At present it is the five red-light districts of Gion Kobu, Miyagawa-cho, Gion Higashi, Ponto-cho, and the Kamishichiken districts, where there are Maiko in Kyoto. The number of applicant for Maiko is increasing, partly because of the recent boom. However, a girl who becomes a disciple of Maiko only because of her yearning feelings often resigns, because she cannot bear the old-fashioned severe training of the feudalistic red-light district. Therefore, it is future task how to keep highly qualified Maiko and geisha in the red-light districts.