What is Maiko?
Let me explain a little about Maiko and Geiko. In Kyoto dialect, geisha are referred to as geiko (gei means “art” while sha translates to “person” and ko to “child”) or maiko. A Maiko is under 20, usually starting her career as young as 15 to be a professional in Japanese traditional culture and entertainment.. Some even go through the stage of shikomi for about six months to a year prior to be ascend to being maiko status, in which training begins only after completing junior high school and enrolling to a special school to learn Japanese culture such as tea ceremony, Japanese traditional culture music and dance. Maiko are professional artists, yet charming is the youth and immaturity. There are many hanamachi or we could call it kagai (geisha districts) in the City—Gion Kobu (the largest), Miyagawa-chō, Kamishichiken (the oldest), and Gion Higashi. These are home to what is currently estimated to be around 73 maiko, 186 geiko, and 132 ochaya (teahouses used for entertainment by geisha), according to the Kyoto Traditional Musical Art Foundation.
Manners towards Maiko
Taking pictures of (or with) geishas/maikos is some people dreams. Some behave ruthlessly to get pictures with them. Real Maiko and Geiko is very busy and in a hurry on their way to work. I recommend to not interfere or not to even photograph them.
But then there are many ‘’fake maiko” on the streets of Kyoto. Many of them are just lurking around to wait for people to ask pictures.
How to meet a real Maiko?
Like I said, many “fake maiko” are lurking around the street of Kyoto. Real maikos are rare to see them walking in the park.
But how can you meet a real one?
A glimpse for a real Maiko
Let’s go to Gion Corner or MAIKO SHOW. You can see a glimpse of Maikos and take a picture with them for 3000 yen (30 dollars)
「Gion Corner」 next to the Gion Koza dance hall 「Yayori Kaikan」will be the place. December~March 2nd week is only opens at Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Besides from that it’s open everyday, and it has a 1 hour daily performance twice at 6:00p.m and 7:00p.m. However, since there is a holiday such as Bon Festival, New year’s New Year’s holiday etc. Let’s make sure not to be mistaken on the day off.
「MAIKO SHOW」located at 3rd floor of Kyoto tower “Kansai Tourist Information Center Kyoto”. This place is a tourist information center for visitors from overseas, but Japanese people can participate in “Maiko Show”. It is held from 15: 45 to 16: 30 every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Meet them in private
If you want to meet Geisha privately, or you want a more authentic experience, why don’t you try Ochaya-asobi, visiting a real teahouse (traditional banquet house)? If you are staying at a hotel you should ask the lobby guid about it.
Another way is “Oshizumi experience plan”. It’s a service that some restaurants presents, and unlike tea house, it’s possible to have a valuable experience to be with a Maiko in a fixed price