Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Information

The World Of Maiko And Geiko - How To Meet Them

The World Of Maiko And Geiko - How To Meet Them

Translated by Jasmine Nishino

Written by Sawada Tomomi

Kyoto 2016.10.13 Bookmark

Take a peek at the mysterious world of the geiko and maiko of Kyoto, the elegant artisans performing traditional music and dances in beautiful kimonos.

What Are Maiko And Geiko?

When visiting the ancient city of Kyoto, many visitors might hope to meet a maiko or geiko.

Unfortunately, you cannot simply meet them anywhere. You would have to go to a specific place and, if your timing is right and you are lucky, you just might manage to encounter one. In this article, we will introduce basic information about these women along with the differences between the maiko and geisha themselves. Why not check it out before stopping by Kyoto?

Read also:

A Dreamlike Townscape: Come Walk The Streets Of Gion At Night


Ladies who perform music, dances, and converse with party guests as an occupation are called maiko and geisha (or geiko).

Maiko and geiko originated in the teahouses around the Gion area where the Yasaka Shrine is located in Kyoto, around 300 years ago during the Edo period. Teahouses were shops that served tea to travelers heading to shrines and temples. In those shops, those ladies who served their guests along with songs and dances were the origins of the maiko and the geiko.

Read also:

Must Try Traditional Japanese Activities in Japan: Sumo, Geisha, Kabuki and More

What are the Differences Between Maiko and Geiko?


The maiko mainly perform dances as a form of entertainment to their guests. Normally their performances make use of the shamisen (a traditional string instrument), classic Japanese music, and other traditional performing arts, but the maiko herself is mainly concerned with dancing, as they are considered to still be undergoing training. Maiko are mainly beginners while they are under 20 years of age. After five years of training, they are finally able to move onto other performance arts such as classical Japanese music, shamisen, tea and flower arrangement (*1) to become a geiko.

*1 Japanese music, shamisen, tea, and flowers: A variety of traditional Japanese performing arts and culture, wherein the shamisen (a 3 string banjo-like instrument) is played as songs are sung, tea is prepared and served as in a tea ceremony and flowers are arranged in front of the guests.

Where to Meet Maiko And Geiko

In Kyoto, there are districts called Hanamachi where the geiko gather. You are more likely to encounter a geiko in these areas than elsewhere in Kyoto.



Out of the five Hanamachi in Kyoto, currently, this is the oldest Hanamachi.

Gion Koubu


This tea house began in the Edo era in front of Yasaka Shrine and is the largest of the five Hanamachi in Kyoto.

There's also a high chance for you to see them at the Hanamachi between 4:30 - 6:30 PM.

How To Spot A Real Maiko


During peak tourist seasons, most of the maiko around Kiyomizu Temple, Gion or Arashiyama are not real maiko. They are tourists enjoying the activity of becoming a maiko for a aday. During the day, real maiko tend to be practicing their arts, so most ladies dressed as maiko during the day are not likely to be real maiko. If you spot a maiko or geiko after sundown hurrying along their way somewhere, they may be real.

Rules and Manners When Meeting Maiko or Geiko


Upon encountering a maiko, please do not touch or pull on the kimonos worn by them. Do not flag them down or stand in front of them to take photos - let them pass through. If you happen to spot a maiko or geiko, watch them from afar or take a photo without being in their way.

Recommended articles

Must Try Traditional Japanese Activities in Japan: Sumo, Geisha, Kabuki and More

Maiko Event at “Gion Rinken” – Tourists are Welcomed!

6 MATCHA Articles You Should Read Before Going To Kyoto

A Dreamlike Townscape: Come Walk The Streets Of Gion At Night

Let’s Explore Kyoto’s Most Popular Spot: Fushimi Inari Shrine!

Kyoto Travel Guide

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

Related topics