Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

November 1994 Archives


neck.icon.gif Kyoto is the center for the geisha business. In Kyoto, there are two main districts for geisha, Gion and Pontocho. Everyone has their preference, but Gion is the more traditional of the two.

In Gion, there are tea houses called ochaya where they geisha and the maiko go to perform and entertain guests. The ochaya manager is called okasan and she orders food and arranges the entertainment for the guests. The customers usually have a relationship with the Ochaya. Ochaya generally do not take new costumers without an introduction.

Young women are first enlisted into the trade as Maiko and move into dorm like facilities called okiya. okiya have managers who act like the Maiko's mother and set up lessons, make sure they come home on time and generally take care of the Maiko's affairs. At first they are taught the Kyoto dialect if they are from out of town. They then undergo substantial training in dance, singing, and general social rules. Maiko wear very heavy white makeup and are generally very young. In the past, when a Maiko found a patron, she would move out of the okiya and into a home sponsored by the patron. These days, when Maiko perform this ritual called erigaishi, they move out of the okiya into single living quarters. At this time they stop wearing the white makeup. Recently, this happens when Maiko are around 18 years old.

In Gion, most Maiko's names start with either "mame" or "ichi" representing the two main Maiko lineages from two very famous geisha. Ichisuzu is a representative from the "ichi" group. The image above is an image of her from behind. Mamehide is from the "mame" lineage.

To be continued...

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