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What is the difference between Geisha and Maiko ?


What would you imagine from the word “Kyoto”?

Most people come up with temples and shrines but some think of “Maiko” and “Geisha”.

Kyoto has 6 Hanamachis (geisha district) including, Gion Kobe, Pontocho and Kamihichiken, so we can hardly discuss charm of Kyoto without Maiko and Geisha.

purple maiko


However, only few people know the difference between Maiko and Geisha. What is the difference between Geisha and Maiko? Learning the difference between these two will be your first step to be an expert of Kyoto.


Maiko is a trainee of Geisha

Maiko is different from Geisha on the point that she is a trainee of Geisha. In other words, Maiko becomes Geisha after training.


To begin with, Geisha belongs to “Yagata”(office for Geishas) and she will be dispatched to traditional restaurants if it is necessary. On the other hand, Maiko just lives in “Okiya” together with other Maikos and she goes to school for Maikos. After Maiko masters traditional dance, shamisen (Japanese traditional instruments), manners and all other important skills, she can be an independent Geisha and start living in Yagata”(office for Geishas).


“Shikomi”, a preliminary step of Maiko

Girls who want to be Geisha have to experience preliminary step before Maiko. That is Shikomi. In order to be a Geisha, first girls have to live in “Okiya” where Maikos live together. Those girls start living in Okiya at the age of 15 and they take care of Maikos. Instead they can learn customs of Hanamachi and its tradition. Girls spend more than 1year for this period but it is crucially important to be a Geisha.




Hairstyle of Geisha and Maiko

Hairstyle is a big deal for girls in all over the world but it is also true for Geisha and Maiko. They have to follow traditional hairstyle but they change it little by little depend on their classes. Basically, Geisha has simpler hairstyle and Maiko has more gorgeous hairstyle. Maiko uses colorful pin and set up her hair gorgeous. However she has to make it simple when she becomes Geisha because she looks more formal with simple hairstyle.


Even if you bump into Geisha or Maiko, now you can now who they are.

But how can we distinguish them?

At the next article, I will teach you a technic to distinguish Geisha from Maiko.



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