A selection of portraits of maiko (and one geiko)…
Look at the twelve faces you have in front of you. They are all maiko, but you can easily see some obvious differences between them. Some only have the lower lip painted in red (or even only part of the lower lip). They are first-year maiko. They usually also have a lot of little flowers descending from their hair ornament (“Kanzashi”). The type of flower changes every month. The yellow ones or “Nanohana” (field mustard flower) are for March. “Sakura” or cherry blossom is of course for April. In May, we have “Fuji” (Wisteria flower). One of my favorites is “Momiji” (Mapple leaves) in November (1st and 3rd from the left on the upper raw). The “Kanzashi” for December is also special as it features two “Maneki”, these panels with the name of Kabuki actors written on them, surrounded by numerous little items.
The second-year maiko have both lips painted in red and their “Kanzashi” features the same bunch of little flowers, but nothing is dangling down their left cheek.
The third-year maiko have fewer but larger flowers on their kanzashi while the senior (four-year) maiko have one large flower or item, such as the butterfly you can see on both Kikuyae san and Fukutama san.
On the right, behind the light, there is a portrait of Geiko Fukucho, the only geiko in this room.
As a first-year maiko, Kimisaki san only has her lower lip painted in red. Her “kanzashi” or hair ornament features small clusters of little “nannohana” or field mustard for the month of March, and she also has a “shidare” or tassel on the left side.
The “kanzashi” for December is also a special one as it features two “Maneki”, these panels with the name of Kabuki actors written on them, surrounded by numerous little items. In this photo, Kikusana san is a second-year maiko — she has both lips painted.
During her first year, maiko Fukunagi only had her lower lip painted in red. The photo was made in February and her “kanzashi” or hair ornament features small clusters of little “ume” or plum blossoms. As a first-year maiko, she also has a “shidare” or tassel on the left side.
Maiko Fukuya is a fourth-year maiko in this photo. As such, her “kanzashi” for December is much simpler and doesn’t feature all the little items seen in the previous photo. Moreover, her collar is all white, with white patterns. The collar of the younger maiko is red with white patterns.
A photo made in November. This month, the “kanzashi” features small clusters of “Momiji” or Maple leaves. it’s Fall and the leaves are turning yellow and red. Of course, as a first-year maiko, Kotsuru san also has a “shidare” or tassel on the left side.
Maiko Chikasaya is still a third-year maiko in this photo. Her “kanzashi” for the month of November features a limited number of larger “Momiji” or maple leaves. Of course, she has both lips painted and has no “shidare” or tassel hanging on the left of her face.
Three portraits I especially like. First, maiko Koaki in the center when she was a beginning maiko five years ago. I have always been impressed by the way she was able to concentrate during our photo sessions. Koaki san will become a geiko at the beginning of the summer.
Fukutama san, on the left, is a senior maiko in this photo. She is now a very popular geiko. She’s probably the maiko I took the most photos of.
And then we have Kanatomo san on the right – a portrait of her when she was a “minarai”, the one-month period before her official debut as a maiko. “Minarai” means “learn by watching” — during this period, the young girl is wearing the maiko attire and accompanies her older sisters in order to have her first contact with the customers and see how things are done. She cannot go out by herself and is wearing a half-size obi (called “handara”).
The last two photos are of maiko Fukuyuri. First, the one placed in the “tokonoma”, the alcove. This is the most important part of the room and the guest of honor will always be placed in front of it. The format of the photo has been sized to resemble a “make jiku” or scroll traditionally placed on the wall of the alcove.
Going out of the room, you’ll see a large portrait of maiko Fukuyuri san fixing her lipstick using a mirror.