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One time chance to get real oiran geta from the 1800s

Oiran geta up for auction

Lurking the internet and watching our social media feeds, we have found something that you all might find interesting.

Currently there are real original oiran geta from around 1800 to 1867 on auction on yahoo auctions.

Link to the auction

If you think “I need to get me some real oiran geta!”, you should be prepared to shell out some good money. The current bid is at 666.666 Yen, which translates to 6.100 US dollars! What a bargain!

If you don’t want to participate in the bidding war, you can also just use the instant purchase option, which is with 777.777 Yen only around 1.000 US dollars more expensive. So why not make sure you get these geta?

In case you wonder what the geta look like, here a couple of pictures from the auction:

Oiran geta up for auction

Oiran geta up for auction

Oiran geta up for auction

Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy geta like these.

How do you walk in oiran geta?

In case you are wondering, of course after instant-buying these geta, how you actually walk in those, we found two great videos for you:


Now go out and have fun with your newly purchased oiran geta!

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Dressing as a Maiko for one hour in Asakusa

What do you think, how it feels to be the center of attention, walking through the streets of Tokyo?

If you are above 6 feet tall (above 1,80cm), have blond hair and blue eyes, you probably know a little bit, what it means.

But what if you were dressed in real geisha or maiko garments, with professionally done make-up?

Random opportunity: Experience being a maiko in public

Blogwriter and world traveller Hanie Hidayah had the opportunity to try this herself.

Instead of getting invited for lunch, her Japanese Airbnb host decided to lead her to Cocomo, a professional kimono rental and photo studio. There she was given the choice to get transformed into a geisha or a maiko for one day. She decided to become a maiko for one hour, because it fitted her youth better.

This was a short experience but an hour being totally unrecognisable behind that makeup and outfit was an out-of-body experience. I was expecting something interesting but I never expected that much attention was given. The studio owner said that she’s had many customers but most of them are Westerners, so they weren’t very convincing as a real Geisha or Maiko. Thanks to my Asian features, I probably made someone’s day by just a single photo.

If you don’t have any Asian features, you probably won’t fool anyone. But as Hanie is from Malaysia and many people probably haven’t met a real geisha or maiko, a lot of people believed to meet “the real thing”.

Hanie getting maiko make-up

Dressing up as a maiko or geisha has been a sensible topic in the kimono scene for a long time. Opinions range from “you shouldn’t do it, if you’re not a real maiko or geisha” and “no westerner should dress up like this” to “it’s great to keep this kind of culture and style alive!“.

I think Hanie did it in a decent and well mannered way. Especially when she declined to go into a McDonalds and buy a burger in her maiko dress.

The boys tried to convince me to walk into McDonald’s and buy a meal but I refused as I knew it would draw much more attention and the thought of possibly ending up on 9gag was not how I’d want my 15 minutes of fame to be like.

We thank Hanie for this great video and her insights.

If you want to read the full post, go over to their “whatevertherewas”-Blog. You will find many more reports from Hanie and her partner from all over the world.

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What’s the difference between a Geisha, a Maiko and a Geiko?

Geisha or Maiko, Real or Fake? Learn the differences between them here!

You may have heard others talk about how they spotted geisha while travelling in Kyoto – but did they really see a geisha, or was it a maiko they saw instead? Or was it even a tourist who paid to dress up in a geisha outfit just for the experience? The differences may be subtle, but let’s see how you can distinguish between them. Let’s clairfy the differences between a geisha and a maiko and between a geisha and a geiko.

First of all:

Geisha vs. Geiko

Literally translating to ‘arts person’, geisha (芸者) are highly trained in Japanese traditional arts, including music, singing and dancing. By contrast, geiko (芸子) is primarily used to refer to geisha from Kyoto. Although geisha formerly referred to only those from Tokyo and its surrounding areas, it has now become the general term for all geisha.

Geiko vs. Maiko

Maiko (舞妓) translates to ‘dancing girl’ or ‘child’, and refers to apprentice geiko. They undergo about 5 years of training in various arts, before graduating to become geiko. Outside of Kyoto, the hangyoku (半玉) in Tokyo would be the closest equivalents to maiko. Hangyoku literally means ‘half jewel’ and are trainee geisha, although little is known about their training process. So summed up, the difference between geiko and maiko can be described as the difference between accomplished “master” of their art and an apprentice.

Now that we’ve clarified the terminology, what are the differences between geisha and maiko?

1. Hair style

Geishas usually wear a simple wig over their natural hair, usually in the typical style seen below. However, maikos style their own hair into elaborate arrangements that vary depending on the stage of training they are in.

Typical Geisha HairstyleA typical geisha hairstyle

Typical Maiko HairstyleOne of the several hairstyles that maiko sport during their apprentice stage

2. Hair accessories

Maikos wear several elaborate hair ornaments, or kanzashi, such as fan or ball-shaped ornaments and combs. There is also the hanakanzashi – an ornament with silk flowers dangling from the maiko’s head to her chin.  While this is one of the most recognisable hair ornaments, it is only worn during the first year Minarai stage of a maiko’s training.

In contrast, geisha wear simpler ornaments or decorative combs in their hair.

Typical Geisha Hair AccessoriesA set of kanzashi for the month of May, featuring purple irises and wisteria

Geisha MamehanaThe far simpler hair ornaments worn by a geisha

3. Make up

As maikos do not wear wigs, they will have a noticeable band of unpainted skin at their hairline. Their eyebrows will be coloured with red or pink, while their eyes will be outlined in red and black. First year maikos will have only their lower lip painted red, while maikos in the second year of training and beyond will have both lips painted. By comparison, as geishas normally wear wigs, there will not be any band of bare skin at their hairline. Their eyebrows will only have a touch of red, while their eyes are only outlined in black. Both their lips will be painted bright red.


4. Kimono

Maiko often wear brightly coloured, long-sleeved kimono with a wide obi or sash that is arranged into a bow at their back and extends to their feet. The collar of their kimono will hang low at the back of their neck and is thick and embroidered, containing only red, gold and white (or cream) colours. The geisha are older, hence wear more mature kimono, usually in solid colours and shorter sleeves. Their obi are narrower and tied in a square knot, while their collars are completely white and sit higher at the back of their neck.

Maiko and GeishaThe simple, shorter sleeved kimono with narrow obi worn by the geiko contrasts with the more elaborate outfit of the maiko

5. Footwear

Maiko normally wear very high okobo(おこぼ), or wooden sandals. Geisha wear shorter zori (草履) or geta(下駄), although maiko may also wear those on special occasions.

 Three Maiko and one GeishaThe footwear worn by the geisha on the right is far lower than that of the maikos


In addition, we found an explanation of the differences between maiko and geiko directly from a geiko:

Real Geisha vs. Tourist Maiko / Tourist Geisha

With those differences between geisha and maiko in mind, how do we tell whether a white painted-faced, kimono-clad person sporting a traditional hairstyle is actually a maiko or geisha, instead of a tourist dressed up as one in disguise? Here are some tell-tale signs:

1. Hair ornaments and makeup

As the long, dangly hanakanzashi is only worn by maiko in their first year of training, which corresponds to when they have only their lower lip painted red, a person wearing hanakanzashi with both lips painted is not the real thing.

Hana-Kanzashi on a tourist maikoA dress-up maiko with 3 tell-tale signs: ‘hana-kanzashi’ paired with both lips painted; the presence of colours other than red, gold and white on the collar; and the relative lack of red on the collar.

2. Time of day

Maiko and geisha start their workday in the evening, hence a person in full regalia in the middle of the day is most likely a tourist.

3. Location

As maiko and geisha hold celebrity status, they will usually avoid crowded places and tend to use the backstreets to get from place to place.

4. Photo-taking

Customers pay for the time required for maiko and geisha to get from place to place, hence they will not stop to take photos with tourists.

5. Walking

While the okobo worn by maiko can be very high and difficult to walk in, maiko are trained to be able to move around in them and will not require the assistance of others for balance.

6. Seasonal motifs

Geisha and maiko wear kimono with patterns that correspond to the seasons. Likewise, the motifs on their hair ornaments are aligned to the time of year too. If you see someone wearing an autumn kimono in spring, then she is most definitely a fake!

With all these in mind, you should now be able to easily distinguish between geisha and maiko, and between the real and the fake!

Although fake shouldn’t be seen with a negative connotation in this context. As we saw in Octavia’s Maiko Kimono Showcase, you can look good dressed up as maiko, even without working for an okiya in Kyoto!


The author of this article is Joanne, who is a former Osaka City JET whose love affair with Japan started when a friend in university asked to take a beginner’s Japanese language course together. Originally from Singapore, Joanne has been in Northern Ireland for two years but would love to live in Japan again. Joanne is the creator and current curator of rotation curation Twitter account @We_JapanShe has her own personal blog “Bits and Bobs”, where she writes about her personal interests, as well as traveling, Japan, ballet and living in Northern Ireland as a Singaporean.

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BBC Geisha Girl Documentary

In 2005 the BBC followed the young Yukina, a only 15 year old girl, on her way to become a geisha for the documentary “Geisha Girl”. Before becoming a maiko, she has to prove worthy of the time and money the okiya has to invest in her training. She will stay 5 years in the status of a maiko, before becoming a geisha or geiko (in Kansai dialect) herself.

From the original BBC description of the documentary:

Documentary following 15-year-old Yukina as she leaves home and moves to Kyoto to embark on the arduous training needed to become a geisha.

The profession has always been shrouded in controversy, with some believing geisha are little more than high-class prostitutes. At such a young age, does Yukina really understand what this ancient profession has in store for her?

If you wonder how everything ended for her:

She finished her 5 years of training in 2009 and only worked for roughly 2 more years after that. Which means she quit around 2011/2012. Looking at this life of hardship, it is easy to see why you would wish for a “normal” life. She remains one of the more well known geishas, thanks to the Geisha Girl documentary.

Yukina Geisha Girl 2009Yukina in 2008, still a maiko (Source:

Yukina as GeishaYukina around 2010, finally a real geisha.

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New geisha apprentice for the first time in 28 years in Tokyo

Geisha in summer breeze

Akasaka is a typical hanamachi district (traditionally the place of geishas/maikos) of Tokyo and the place where for the first time in 28 years a new young geisha apprenctice got accepted. For 28 years, nobody wanted to learn to become a Geisha in Akasaka, a long dry spell that now has been broken.

The 20 year old girl who is going to become a geisha dropped out of dance college with the aim of becoming a geisha herself. As geishas don’t use their real name, she picked the name “Sakura” (cherry blossom 桜) as her geisha name.

Sakura was born in 1994 and learned Japanese dance since her childhood. She had been enrolled at the Nihon University College of Art before. Through an acquaintance she go introduced to Ms. Ikuko, who works and lives in a so called okiya, which is traditionally the home and headquarter of the geishas. Sakura has started her studies in September and is going to learn the ways and dances of a geisha in the status of hangyoku, which translates into “half jewel” (半玉).

The geisha community of Akasaka prospered since the Meiji era and has been thriving as the leading karyukai (entertainment services offered by geishas) enviroment in Tokyo along with Shinbashi.

In 1928, in the third year of the Showa era, the geisha count was 425 people and has from then on steadily decreased to a current count of 23 geishas. Under these circumstances, the expectations for the first hangyoku in 28 years are rather large.

Source: Huffington Post Japan