<br /><i>Via Flickr:</i>
<br />“Our house has a cat… and we always play with him before the ozashiki [party rooms] start… A lot of okiya [geisha houses] keep dogs or cats. Since we live together we become like a family, and I guess the pets become kind of like substitute children – it sometimes seems as if they are more important than the maiko [apprentices] and geiko [geisha]!”
From “A geisha’s journey: my life as a Kyoto apprentice” by Komomo, first published in 2008, page 70.
Naniwa Odori was the name of the public dances of the Shinmachi geisha district in Osaka, first performed in 1908. Shinmachi was the oldest hanamachi (geisha district) in Osaka, founded as a yūkaku (pleasure quarter or courtesan’s district) between 1615 and 1623, it was in continuous operation until it was destroyed during World War II.
I always have trouble distinguishing the different maiko hairstyles, especially sakkou and what makes it stand out. Would you mind going over what helps identify sakkou?
Of course I wouldn’t mind! This seems like a good opportunity to make a general post about the most important Maiko-hairstyles, so that is what I’m going to do. I actually have a tab on hairstyles, ut I really need to overhaul that, so it’s probably better that you didn’t look at it ^^’.
The wareshinobu hairstyle
The wareshinobu hairstyle is worn by junior Maiko, Maiko in their first two to three years, who are usually under 18 years old. Usually, junior Maiko are promoted to senior Maiko around the time they become 18, sometimes earlier, when they progress exceptionally quickly in their lessons (like Maiko Fumiyoshi or Mikako, for example).
Maiko Fukutama (Shigemori Okiya) of Miyagawacho showing off a May-ensemble (Source)
Maiko Umehina (Umeno Okiya) of Kamishichiken bowing after performing a dance (Source)
The wareshinobu hairstyle consists of a large bun in the center of the head and two “wings” on either side of the hairstyle, as all Maiko-hairstyles. Into the hairstyle, red fabric is worked into the hairstyle, which peeks out at the top and the bottom of the bun. A red piece of silk is tied into the front of the hairstyle; it’s called chinkoro, and symbolizes that the Maiko is still a child. Maiko also wear a pin on top of the bun, which is not worn in any other hairstyle.
wareshinobu is the wareshinobu hairstyle worn for formal occassions, which includes tortoiseshell-kanzashi instead of regular floral kanzashi and also miokuri, paper strips put into the back under the bun of the hairstyle, which are silver on top and red on the bottom, on the day of a Maiko’s Misedashi.
Maiko Kanako (Kawahisa Okiya) of Miyagawacho on the day of her Misedashi (Source)
The ofuku hairstyle is the everyday-hairstyle worn by senior Maiko, who are generally over 18 years old. It consists of a smaller bun in the center of the head and two wings at each side of the head. However, the bun has somewhat of a triangle-shape and is “open” at the bottom. Onto that bottom, a triangle-shaped piece of cloth, called tegara, is pinned. That tegara is usually red whith a white motif if the Maiko is still younger, but when she gets closer to becoming a Geiko, the colors can change and it can be blue, yellow of light pink. Now-Geiko Katsuhina even wore one of all three colors shortly before switching to the sakkou hairstyle.
Maiko Koharu (Shigemori Okiya) of Miyagawacho showing off a June-ensemble (Source)
Maiko Toshisumi (Komaya Okiya) of Miyagawacho bowing after performing a dance (Source)
Hairstyles for special occassions:
The Yakko Shimada hairstyle
The yakko shimada hairstyle is worn by senior Maiko for special occassions like Shigyoshiki, Setsubun and Hassaku, and is also often worn as a pre-sakkou hairstyle. The last Maiko to do that was Maiko Toshisumi, who just became a Geiko.
It consists of a high bun, similar to that in the wareshinobu and ofuku hairstyle, that only consists of a “half-circle” and ends in a small know that hangs down a little bit. Around the big bun red-and-white cloth similar to that of the tegara, and around the small knot, a small “bracelet” made of green and orange coral.
Maiko Toshisumi (Komaya Okiya) of Miyagawacho wearing the yakko shimada hairstyle as a pre-sakkou hairstyle (Source)
Then-Maiko Katsuna (Daimonji Okiya) of Kamishichiken wearing the yakko shimada hairstyle for Shigyoshiki 2016 (Source)
The Katsuyama Hairstyle
The Katsuyama hairstyle is only worn by senior Maiko during the Gion Matsuri, which takes places every year from July 1st to 24th. It is said that the katsuyama hairstyle was invented by a Tayuu called Katsuyama.
The hair is pulled into a high, long bun, and a silk ribbon similar to that in the yakko shimada hairstyle is worked around it. That silk ribbon is usually red with a white motif, but can also be pink or blue, if the Maiko is very senior. Another characteristic of the hairstyle is the round flower-kanzashi called bon-ten, that is put through the bun and shows on bith sides. Maiko also wear a big silver katsuyama bridge with the hairstyle.
Maiko Umechie (Umeno Okiya) of Kamishichiken in July 2016 during the Gion Matsuri (Source)
Maiko Koyoshi (Shigemori Okiya) of Miyagawacho in July 2016 during the Gion Matsuri 2016 (Source)
The Sakkou hairstyle
The sakkou hairstyle is only worn during the two weeks (sometimes a little bit shorter or longer than that) before a Maiko becomes a Geiko. Sometimes, Maiko are also allowed to wear the hairstyle before leaing the profession - the Kawahisa Okiya of Miyagawacho has a history of letting their girls do that. The sakkou hairstyle used to be worn by young married women.
The sakkou hairstyle is the most complicated of the Maiko hairstyle and is hard to describe, but what I think is the most recognizable about it is the long string of hair draped over the hairstyle and hanging down at the end. During her danpatsu shiki ceremony, a part of that string of hair is cut off, and so are the silver wires keeping the hairstyle in place. Once her hair is free, she is no longer a Maiko.
Also helpful for recognizing is could be that in Gion Higashi, Pontocho, Kamishichiken and Miyagawacho, Maiko wear a completely red collar with it, only in Gion Kobu they wear the ordinary collar of a senior Maiko. And every Maiko wearing the sakkou hairstyle gets to design their own kanzashi, which usually consist of lucky motifs like cranes, pines, turtles, phoenixes, treasure ships etc. and are quite easy to distinguish from ordinary kanzashi.
Maiko Toshisumi (Komaya Okiya) of Miyagawacho wearing the sakkou hairstyle (Source)
Maiko Toshisumi (Komaya Okiya) of Miyagawacho wearing the sakkou hairstyle (Source)
There are even more hairstyles, like the edo sakkou, fukiwa, hime katsuyama, kikugasane, mitsumage, osafune, oshidori no hina, oshirori no mesu, oshun, suisha, umemodoki and yuiwata hairstyle, but these special hairstyles are usually only worn during Setsubun and sometimes as a pre-sakkou hairstyle in Pontocho, so you won’t see them that often.
Many of these hairstyles were also covered in this post made by the blog kamishichiken abou Setsusbun-hairstyles. I’ll add them to my hairstyle-tab over time.
I hope I could help and that this wasn’t too long!
The questions surrounding what arts that maiko and geiko practice comes up regularly, and instead of just posting them onto one of the tabs I’d rather lay it out in a post here first.
The “Gei” (芸) in Geisha(芸者)/Geiko(芸妓)/Geigi(芸妓) means “Art” and there are many branches and types of art that one can master. For this part we’ll be looking at the direct performing arts that everyone knows the geisha are renowned for: music and dance.
Dance - Mai (舞) All traditional Japanese dance styles have their roots in Shinto ceremonies that date back at least two millennia. There are two main styles to traditional dance practiced today:
-Noh (能): Originally arrived in Japan from China in the 8th century and developed into the style we know today in the 13th century by Kan’ami (assisted by his son Zeami). Derived from the classical court style dances, it features small, precise movements to tell a story. It can be seen as “boring” or “obscure” if you’re not sure what to look for as you need to understand the movements to appreciate them to the fullest. This isn’t to say that it isn’t beautiful to behold without prior knowledge as it is quite enchanting! Gion Kobu’s Inoue school is part of the Noh tradition.
-Kabuki (歌舞伎): Derived directly from Shinto ceremonies, it was created in 1603 by Izumo No Okuni, a shrine priestess who created her own style of dance and performed it on the dry riverbed of the Kamo River. She became so famous that she was invited to perform in front of the emperor! After seeing how popular the style of dance had become rival dance groups sprung up around her and established the kabuki that we know today. The style is known for its dramatic and often “wild” movements that are meant to be appreciated by the common people. Pontocho’s Onoe, Miyagawa Cho’s Wakayagi, Kamishichiken’s Hanayagi, and Gion Higashi’s Fujima schools are part of the Kabuki tradition.
Music - Raku (楽) What would dance be without music? Music, like dance, can be broken down into two types: voice/song and instruments.
Singing - Uta (歌): Maiko and geiko learn traditional ballads that are performed alongside dance. There are two types: Kouta (小唄) which means “short songs/ballads” and Nagauta (長唄) which means “long songs/ballad.” They are learned by listening to an instructor and then repeating and/or transcribing the words and melody together. There’s no “set” way of reading or learning a song like there is for Western music, so it takes a large amount of practice to perform any uta properly (although there are a few methods that do exist).
Instruments - Gakki (楽器) There are many instruments practiced in the karyukai, but I’ll only go over the most common ones that are seen and heard on a regular basis.
-Shamisen (三味線): A three stringed instrument that is played with a plectrum. It is the most common instrument in the karyukai as it developed as an instrument that the common people used. Most uta were created to be played with a shamisen. It resembles a simplified guitar and is played in a similar fashion.
-Tsuzumi (鼓): The all encompassing word for drums, but specifically dual sided drums that are roped together. There are three main types learned by maiko and geiko:
-Kotsuzumi (小鼓): Literally “Small Drum,” or sometimes known as the “regular” tsuzumi, it is held onto one’s shoulder and played by striking the drum with the free hand.
-Ōtsuzumi (大鼓): Literally “Large Drum,” it is a larger size of the tsuzumi and features one end that is larger than the other. It produces a much deeper sound when struck.
-Taiko (太鼓): Literally “Great Drum,” they’re not the gigantic ones that are often seen at summer festivals, but rather closer in size to an otsuzumi. The taiko sits on a stand while the musician strikes it with rods known as bachi (桴). It is the closest equivalent to Western style drums.
-Fue (笛): The all encompassing word for flute, which in traditional Japanese style is usually made from bamboo. There are two types of fue that include:
-Shakuhachi (尺八): The high pitched iconic flute that is actually rare in the karyukai, it features 5 holes (4 on top and 1 underneath). Its sound is often described as “haunting” as it gently pierces through silence to deliver melodies full of both happiness and sadness.
-Shinobue (篠笛)/Yokobue (横笛): Flutes that are much closer to Western ones, but are still made from wood. It features 7 holes that allows it to play more notes than the shakuhachi. This type is often played with the end resting on the musician’s shoulder.
-Koto (事): A 13 stringed instrument that’s considered a type of lute although it plays closer to that of a harp. Due to its size it lays flat on the floor and the musician plucks the strings individually to produce sound. Those who are new to the koto often wear metal guards on their fingers to keep the strings from slicing into their skin until their hands have developed enough to withstand the pressure.
-Kokyū (胡弓): Taught exclusively in Miyagawa Cho as it was once considered an instrument of the oiran, a kokyū is a smaller version of the shamisen that’s played upright with a bow instead of a plectrum.
I don’t know how many times I’m going to repeat this,but:
-Memoirs of a Geisha has almost nothing to do with actual geisha,geiko,maiko or geigi. There is a reason why actual gei-maiko fans hate this movie.
-Dressing in a bathrobe,putting your hair up in a bun and sticking a few chopsticks in it is not,nor it will ever be ’‘Geisha cosplay“. If you go to Kyoto and want to do henshin, go for it, but leave the damn bathrobe in peace.
-Painting your mouth in a ribbon-shaped red and red dots on your cheeks does not,nor it will ever count as ’'geisha” “geesha” “meiko” or “sexy japanese girl”.
-Dead / zombie / creepy / naked “geisha” has zero to nothing to do with actual geisha,geiko,maiko OR geigi.
Unless some okaasan rose from her grave, geimaiko fans DO NOT want to see it. Ever.
-“ Lick my sushi ” is not an acceptable phrase for a geisha,geiko,maiko or geigi.
What you’re doing is INSULTING and STEREOTYPING someone’s culture and heritage and that is NOT OK !
Plus, nobody wants to see your “made in china” bathrobe.
Today in Kamishichiken: Erikae of Geiko Katsuna from the Daimonji Okiya!
Famous Katsuna finally became a Geiko! She had her Misedashi on the 15th of November 2012, so she was a Maiko for 4 years and 7 months.
Katsuna did somethinng quite unusual: Although she is a great dancer and most Maiko go on to become tachikata Geiko (dancers), Katsuna will work as a jikata Geiko (musician) from now on.
She has played the violin since she was little and was always interested in classcial music, so she probably decided that she loves music more than dance, and wanted to focus on it. Jikata Geiko are also in high demand, especially in small Kamishichiken, where currently only six of them are active.
In Kamishichiken, Jikata Geiko don’t wear the katsura (wig), white oshiroi and hikizuri; instead they were the simple yōhatsu hairstyle, subdued makeup and a more simple kimono, so we probably won’t see Katsuna wearing oshiroi anytime soon.
Katsuna looks so happy and proud and the simple look really suits her, she looks very elegant and mature! I’m sure that she made the right decision, if it makes her so happy! And it certainly won’t make her less famous and successful, she’ll be so busy as a jikata!
Congratulations Katsuna, and all the best wishes for your further career!