A maiko is a female performer of singing, dancing, playing shamisen (three-stringed instrument) and other musical instruments who attends banquets held in the hanamachi (geisha/geiko districts), such as Gion of Kyoto. A maiko becomes a geiko when her apprenticeship is concluded. In the following interview, a maiko called Kikushino of the Hanafusa boarding house talks about her experiences:
1. Life of a maiko
Except for Sundays, I have lessons in nagauta (long epic songs), shamisen, Japanese flute, and taiko (drum). Depending on the lesson schedule, I get up around 9 a.m. After the lessons, I make a round of visits to the teahouses. Engagements at banquets start around 6 p.m. and I get home around midnight. I have to wait for my turn to take a bath, so usually I go to bed around 2 a.m.
2. Effort behind the scenes
Since I am not from Kyoto, there are many things to learn, such as the Kyoto dialect and manners. Mobile phones, dyed hair, and nail polish are prohibited. So it is a little sad that I couldn’t enjoy the same fashions as girls of my age.
3. Learning hanamachi ways
Half of the girls who started with me at the same time have already left. Although it is a difficult world to adapt to, I have the support of my “mother“ (mistress of the boarding house), who is strict as well as gentle, just like my real mother. So I can endure the hardship.