Geisha. Maiko. Many people have heard these words associated with Japanese culture, but also many don't really know what's the difference between the two!

The Geisha

A geisha is a women who is educated in the traditional Japanese arts, such as music, dancing, singing, and games. The word geisha is made up of two parts "gei"=arts and "sha"= person, it literally means a person of the arts. They're not courtesans or prostitutes as some people might believe, but are women who entertain with their skill in the traditional arts. In Tokyo, they're widely known as geisha, but in the Kyoto dialect, they're known as geiko.

The Maiko

A maiko is an apprentice to the geisha. The word maiko, means "mai"=dance and "ko"=child, a dancing child. The maiko go through about 5 years of apprenticeship while learning about the traditional "gei" or arts.

The Differences

Hairstyle and Ornaments

Maiko use their own hair to make the hairstyle and have elaborate "hana-kanzashi" or a flower comb made out of silk with other ornaments to decorate their hair.
Geisha use wigs instead of their own hair and have only simple decorative combs or "kanzashi" in their hair.

Makeup (blush, eyeoutline, eyebrow color, lipstick)

junior maiko make up
Maiko paint their face white but will have a strip of bare skin left unpainted by their hairline. They will have a noticeable amount of pink blush around their cheeks, crimson and black outlines around their eyes, and their eyebrows will also be defined with red or pink under the black. Their lips will only be partially colored red.
junior geisha make up
Geisha paint their face white with no strip of bare skin because the wig will cover it. They will only have black outlining their eyes, with a faint red under the black of their eyebrows. Their lips will be almost fully or fully colored with red.

Kimono, Collor, "Obi"=sash

Maiko wear colorful kimonos with a wide "obi"=sash that is tied into a bow at the back and dangles down all the way to her feet. Her collar will be thick and embroidered. It will start out red and will become embroidered with white patterns as it advances, but it will remain red at the back of their neck.
Geisha wear a more refined kimono, usually of one color with a pattern near the bottom. Their "obi" is narrower and is tied in a simple box bow in the back, and their collar is completely white.
A geisha or maiko are usually associated with Kyoto, but it is possible to see them in the older parts of Tokyo, like the Asakusa or Mukojima areas. The most popular geisha show in Tokyo is the "Azuma Odori" which is held annually in May at the Shinbashi Enbujo Theater.

Shinbashi Enbujo Theater

Address:Ginza 6-18-2, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Japan
Phone: 03-3541-2600
Access: Take the Hibiya Line or Asakusa Line to Higashi Ginza Station. Exit 6; Take the Ōedo Line to Tsukiji Shijō Station. Exit A3

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