Hello! Thank you for answering my question about the kimono shape, you were very clear. You said that the purpose of the clothing is to look cylindrical, I know such clothes represent beauty standards from the past. Can you please tell give more information about such standards? Or is that a theme beyond maikos and geikos?
I actually researched this, but couldn’t find many reliable sources, so I’m going to talk about the ones that I know about for sure. I’m going to talk about modern beauty standards as well, for comparison. Sorry if I come off as a bit unorganized!
First of all, pale and clear skin has been valued throughout most of Japan’s history, and in other (East-)Asian countries like Korea and Vietnam it is also seen as the ideal. In the west, a certain type of tan is seen as ideal, so this is quite different from Japan.
In Japan, small lips and small noses have also been regarded as beautiful. When Mineko Iwasaki met the okaasan of her future okiya for the first time, she immediately remarked what beautiful small lips she has. Maiko and Geiko paint their lips in smaller than they actually are and it was a fashion for some time during the 1920s to only paint your lower lip, even if you were a Geiko already, to make the lips appear even smaller.
Small noses are still seen as ideal, while the desired lip-shape has changed a bit. A lot of J-Pop idols, actors and popular models have fuller lips than what used to be considered ideal in old Japan, but their lips are still smaller than what is currently “in” in the west and small lips are still seen as pretty.
When we think about Japanese beauty ideals, a lot of us will immediately think of big eyes. Big eyes are considered very beautiful, especially for women, because they look cute and feminine. (This isn’t too far from western beauty standards though; big or bigger eyes are also considered ideal here.) This hasn’t always been this way; bigger eyes were always considered pretty (and have widely been across the world), but weren’t so much the focus in old Japan; monolids and hooded eyes were also often considered beautiful. Geiko Mayuha (Tama Okiya) of Gion Kobu is often complimented on her eyes, which some people on forums call “fox eyes”. Maiko Toshiemi (Komaya Okiya) of Miyagawacho also has similar eyes and she is very popular and a popular model for photoshoots.
Eyebrows traditionally were slighty rounded and were often penciled in, if the respective woman had the means to. In a short-documentary, now retired Maiko Fukunae (Shigemori Okiya of Miyagawacho) said that a Maiko’s eyebrows are not supposed to look sharp, but rounded, “like a crescent moon”. This resembles the fashion of the time and goes for Geiko as well.
In old Japan, long necks were also considered very beautiful, as I’ve explained in my previous post, and were regarded as somewhat sensual.
Now on to something more private: breasts. In my previous post, I’ve explained that you were supposed to look “flat” and still ideally are while wearing a kimono. In today’s Japan, breasts are highly sexualized and deep cleavage is only very rarely shown.
However, you can show off a lot of leg, if you want to. Long and skinny legs are considered beautiful and feminine in Japan today and showing a lot of leg is considered completely normal.
In old Japan, you were sandals, in which the shape of your feet was always visible. Small and dainty feet were considered ideal for women, which is also the reaso why part of the feet always hangs off if okobo; it’s supposed to make your feet look smaller.
Generally, women were supposed to be small, slender and petite and look soft and somewhat cute (up until a certain age). This isn’t too far from western standards; women here are also supposed to be skinny and smaller than men, especially of they are in a romantic relationship.
When we think of Japanese beauty standards today, most of us immediately think of “kawaii fashion” and the wish of having big eyes and looking very cute and childish. Of course, not nearly every woman in Japan dresses in that way, but it does influence everday-fashion and beauty ideals.
In comparison to what is “in” right now in the West and what is in Japan and also Korea, we can see quite a difference. Filling in your eyebrows to achieve a very dark, big, high and arched brow, having very big lips and wearing matte lipsticks in bold colors, wearing big false lashes to enhance the eyes, hihlighting, contouring and wearing high coverage foundation and concealer is what is the trend right now, especially in the States; this makes you look very grown-up, “carved” and serious.
Makeup in Japan and especially Korea is much more muted; people usually try to achieve a “no-makeup”-makeup-look and try to even out their complexion and bring some attenton to the eyes, but it overall remains more natural-looking.
Of course Maiko and Geiko are affected by traditional Japanese beauty ideals; they actually represent the beauty ideal of the Edo Period. Missmyloko called Maiko Ichiyuu (Katsumi Okiya) of Pontocho the “dictionary-definition” of a Maiko in a post yesterday, and that is definitely true. Maiko, especially junior ones, ideally look small and petite, cute, innocent and somewhat childlike. They are bascially supposed to look like human dolls. Maiko with different features aren’t overlooked though; Geiko Kofuku (Shigemori Okiya) of Miyagwacho for example, has very striking features and she has been famous since her Maiko-stage.
Geiko ideally look refined, classy, elegant and strong, like the mature women that they are. Toshimana (Komaya Okiya) and Kikuno (Hanafusa Okiya) of Miyagawacho are great examples for this; they look feminine and graceful, yet still womanly and strong.
I hope I didn’t stray off-topic too much, but I find this topic very interesting and liked reading about it very much, so thank you for sending in your questions! I’ve devinitely learned some new things as well!