How Maiko’s Hairstyle Is Made
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What maiko and geiko’s visual characteristics are you attracted the most? Kimono, makeup or hairstyle? Their traditional hairstyles are handed down from generation to generation since Edo period. Nowadays, limited hairdressers know how to style their hair in Japan.
For some of you who wonder how and who styles the complicated hair arrangement, let me give you a glimpse of the back side of their beautiful hairstyles with the cooperation of geiko Mitsuna from Ponto-cho*.
Early morning with Mitsuna. Unfortunately, it started raining in the morning. We took a taxi to get her habitual hairdresser’s salon. There are three hair salons for the exclusive use of maiko and geiko in Gion. It took about 10 mins to arrive at Nakamura Beauty Salon from her house.
The importance of punctuality is the first thing that girls learn here in Kyoto.
Her appointment was from 8:00 am, but arriving 10 mins before the appointment is something natural for her. Especially at the hair salon, everyone has to arrive punctually since there is a long list of maiko and geiko’s appointments every morning.
Geiko Mitsuna normally wears a wig, made of real human hair, for ozashiki*. It was a special day when she attended a tea ceremony to serve tea to attendees of Kamogawa Odori. At a tea ceremony, geiko don’t wear wigs, so this is only one occasion when geiko style their own hair into Geiko-shimada, the name of the hairstyle. It’s very similar to maiko’s hairstyles such as wareshinobu and ofuku.
Making her hair straight by using a hair iron is the first step to make Geiko-shimada hairstyle. The old-fashioned hair iron is used over 50 years at the hair salon. Other tools have also been carefully used for decades.
After making her hair straight, Mrs. Nakamura began to tie hair partly and build up four parts together into one beautiful hair arrangement.
Mrs. Nakamura is called “One-chan”, means an older sister, by maiko and geiko. She doesn’t like being called “Mrs. Nakamura” because she wants to be a familiar person for them. Also, despite having the skillful technique, she is modesty and abases herself.
She uses beeswax to keep the hairstyle stable for a week. This is also a traditional way inherited from hundreds of years ago.
Mrs. Nakamura gave the last touches to the hairstyle, putting special kanzashi, hair ornaments.
Those traditional and very expensive kanzashi aren’t sold anymore. They’re only for geiko who attend a formal tea ceremony. Geiko have to be very careful to walk around especially with the kind of kanzashi since they’re made of genuine tortoiseshell, a valuable material.
It’s done, finally. This is a great work of Japanese art. Without traditional hairdressers’ skillful technique, Hana-machi* isn’t able to keep its traditions and culture. In Japan, people like them are called “En-no-shita no chikara-mochi”, or a powerful backseat player. They work behind the highlighted scenes to support the others.
After Mitsuna went back to her okiya* and finished makeup and dressing up a special kimono, she is now ready for a tea ceremony at Kamogawa Odori.
Thank you Mitsuna for giving us a rare chance to see important scenes behind the beauty of ladies in Hana-machi.
Ponto-cho = a famous district in Kyoto, known for geiko and maiko and home to many geiko houses and traditional tea houses
Ozashiki = a type of room the party or dinner take place in at an tea house
Hana-machi = the flower world which refers to geiko/maiko world
Okiya = a lodging house in which a maiko live during the length of her nenki (contract or career as a maiko)
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