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Geisha or Maiko?

The word Geisha literally translates to “arts person” or “one trained in arts” (gei = art, sha = person) and Maiko translates to “dancing child” (mai = dance, ko = child).

A Geisha is a woman trained in the traditional arts of Japan which include dance, song and the playing of musical instruments. A Meiko is an apprentice Geisha who must train for approximately 5 years to be able to be considered a full fledged Geisha.

Geisha are paid entertainers but are not prostitutes as is commonly assumed in the west. This misunderstanding seems to stem from the post World War II occupation of Japan when the U.S. service men would tell stories of their experiences with so-called Geisha who were often normal Japanese prostitutes posing as Geisha to attract customers.

It is difficult for lay people to tell the difference between a Geisha and a Maiko. There are subtle differences in make-up, attire and hairstyle that only an expert would be able to identify.

Contrary to what you might thinks seeing a Geisha (or Maiko) walking down the street in Tokyo is not a common sight. While out sightseeing a while back I felt very fortunate to be able to snap this shot. I looked up and there she was – thankfully my camera was out!

Photo Credit: Personal Collection