1. Maiko As A Job

Maiko As A Job

The following two tabs change content below.

Kanae Nakahama

Lived in the States for ten years. Now living near a famous sightseeing area; Arashiyama, for more than 15 years. Watching people and feeling the culture in two countries made another point of view for me.

Latest posts by Kanae Nakahama (see all)

Maiko As A Job


Photo’s by “kyoto flowertourism”


Have you ever thought of becoming a Maiko as a job? Today, this topic is about how to become a Maiko. By first introducing what kinds of differences are in Maiko and Geisha easily.





■ What is Maiko? Is it different from Geisha?


Maiko and Geisha are Japanese traditional job that have a history over three-hundred years. Explaining easily, Maiko and Geisha are perfectly different. Maiko are people who are training to become a Geisha; a multiple entertainer. The kanji for Maiko(舞妓) is “dance child”. They are also known as hangyoku(半玉), meaning “half jewel”. After the training term ends, they can choose to become a Geisha or not. In Kyoto, Geisha is also known as “Geiko”. The period of being a Maiko is very short. Normally, the girls enter the training school at fifteen years old. Maiko has the limit of the age. They have to graduate when they are twenty or twenty-one years old (it depends at the skills of the Maiko). They dance, sing, and play typical Japanese instruments; such as shamisen at the reception.





■ How to become a Maiko.


To become a Maiko is a very tough road. The trainers of the Maiko are very strict, and if the person does not have a strong heart, it may be hard to accomplish becoming a Maiko. Living separate from the family for at least five years is a tough experience to have for a fifthteen year old too. Once the person enters the training term, it is not easy to go home easily. Not only that, according to Ookini Zaidan there are at least ten requirements to become a Maiko.





1. Maiko is a training period of becoming a Geisha.


As a fundamental premise, Maiko are trainees who are training to become a Geisha. There is no salary paid during the training. Nothing except pocket money about ten thousand to twenty thousand pocket money for a month. This is given from the mother of the okiya (the place where Maiko and Shikomi lives). The pocket money changes, depending at which okiya to enter. Their day off is twice in a month. However, they say they even do not have time to spend the money.  From these facts, it is understandable this is not an ordinary place of employment.





2. Age Restrictions.


There are age limits to begin the training. In the old days, under ten years old girls were the best timing to start the training. Now in Japan, after finishing compulsory education; which means graduating junior high school, girls enter the training. The average of entering this job is around fifthteen years old. Training is able to start after graduating high school, but the period of being a Maiko would be too short. Which means, the person might have a hard time training to become a professional.





3. It is better to be under 160 centimeters.


Photo’s by “kyoto flowertourism”


These shoe are called “okobo”. This is a lacquered wooden clogs for girls. It is a traditional shoe in Japan. Ten centimeters of the height raises by wearing these shoes. There is a limit to the height, because Maiko is thought as a cute little girl in the past. That culture maintains even now. Therefore, having a cute size of appearance is necessary.





4. The weight has to be more than 43 kilograms. Also be confident with strength.


The kimono they are wearing are about seven to ten kilograms. Therefore, Maiko is a job that has to have strength. After entering as a trainee, this does not mean they can soon do makeup and take the lessons. They begin by working as a “shikomi”. They take care of the house, and doing kago-mochi; which means to carrying the baggage for the upper sisters, and experiencing the bottom of the latter. This term continues about a year, but changes by the skills the shikomi has.





5. Parental consent is required. Unmarried.


When entering the Maiko training, the person is under age and needs the permissions from the parents. Not only the age, the person can not be a Maiko if she is married. Maiko has a image of being pure and innocent. The sales point of Maiko is to be under age and have the cute appearance. The customs do not change even now. By protecting the traditional culture, this connects to the image of Maiko people are willing.





6. Needs to love performing traditional arts.


People do not need to have experiences for performing traditional art, but having a good ear for music is better. This is a training school to become a professional entertainer. This job can not inseparably bound up with performing traditional art.





7. Needs to love having a Japanese style live in the community.


Kimono, tea ceremony, ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), ozashiki (Japanese style banquet), training lessons; such as Japanese dancing. Everything is done in Japanese style. Even when sleeping, the person needs to use a high pillow (to protect the hairstyle). If the person can not suit with living in the Japanese style of culture, then thinking for a different career might be better.





8. A person who does not give up easily.


As I wrote in the beginning, the training starts from the “shikomi”. It means “training” in Japanese. During this term, shikomi take lessons about Japanese dancing, learning about Kyoto’s dialect, the rules in hanamachi, civility and rules of etiquette, and more. This is a term learning about the basic skills. Not only just learning the skills, this includes such as cleaning the house, help cooking, and taking care of the upper sisters. This is thought as a part of training. However, if the person can not understand why and can not do miscellaneous affairs, they can not even start training as a Maiko.





9. No need for monthly tutorial fee.


There is no need to pay for learning the skills and living in the okiya. The okiya will pay for the money for living there. For raising one professional Maiko, it takes about a million yen to raise to a professional performer. It cost this much because of the housing, food, clothing, lessons, makeup, and pocket money to the Maiko and shikomi.





10. The term for Maiko


To become a professional Maiko, the person has to continue this lifestyle for at least five or six years. At some okiya if quit during the trainee period, they might require to pay back the money they have spend to the person. To become a Maiko, the ten requirements are important, but human relationship are more important.





■ As a result


There are ten requirements, but more than that the world inside Maiko seems to be more deep and difficult. Adding to this sentence, Maiko is just the entrance to become a professional Geisha, and there are no endings to training until the person quits a professional in Hanamachi (Japanese Geisha district). Being patient, clever, and having a healthy body seems to be the most important point to become a Maiko. As a matter of fact, Maiko are professionals for classical Japanese entertainments. Not only entertainments, Maiko are professionals for serving the customers. Therefore, responsiveness, attentiveness, and scrupulous consideration is necessary. Especially, patience is important to have. Expressing the feelings straight is easy. However, if the person wants to become a Maiko, thinking by itself and selecting the words is necessary. They have to do not just things that are required, but serving the customers from their heart. If you feel so strongly that you can do it, then challenging a Maiko would be a fabulous job to select.





■ References

Ookini Zaidan (おおきに財団 公益財団法人京都伝統伎芸振興財団).(n.d.). Retrieved June 26, 2017, from 

Author Profile

Kanae Nakahama
Kanae Nakahama
Lived in the States for ten years. Now living near a famous sightseeing area; Arashiyama, for more than 15 years. Watching people and feeling the culture in two countries made another point of view for me.