Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Geisha Timeline

Geisha, or geiko as they're known in Kyoto, have a basic path they follow as they progress from newbie to true geisha, with its own traditions, clothing and vocabulary. Here's a typical and very simplified walk through, with all images by the amazing Onihide and used with permission (thank you very much!).

Minarai 見習い - This is a proto-apprentice, and literally means "learning by watching". Minarai dress like the next step up, maiko, but wear their obi half-length in the back to show customers and others they're newbies.

Minarai Fumino

Misedashi 見せだし - Basically "showing around", this word refers to the ceremony and day when a minarai becomes a proper maiko (apprentice).

Fumino again, on the day of her misedashi

Maiko 舞妓 - The most famous visual representatives of the geisha world, maiko "dancing girl", wear elaborate folded silk square hair ornaments made to look like flowers, butterflies, and a whole host of other seasonal and auspicious symbols, sometimes with dangling lines of silk petals or leaves. They most often wear whiteface, tall wooden okobo (clogs) and special, maiko-specific long obi (darari obi) tied to dangle like two tails in the back, as well as long-sleeved young women's (furisode) kimono.

Maiko Ayakazu

Maiko Toshikana and Toshimana

Sakkou 先笄 - The week before a maiko becomes a proper geisha, she will dress her hair a certain way to let everyone know she is about to "graduate" to geisha.

Maiko Mamechiho in the sakkou hairstyle

Erikae 襟替え - "Collar changing", this is the ceremony when a maiko becomes a proper geisha/geiko, fully turning her collar from maiko red to geisha white.

Geiko Kimiha on the day of her erikae

Geisha 芸者 ("Geiko" 芸妓 in Kyoto) - A "person of the arts" or "woman of the arts", a geisha has worked her butt off to become a classically trained entertainer and artist and has now taken her place as one of the most famous symbols of traditional Japan. She wears a simpler hairstyle and fewer, smaller ornaments, as well as short-sleeve tomesode (adult woman) kimono and usually short obi knot styles.
Geiko Konomi

Geiko Mamesuzu, Konomi, and Kogiku

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