Shikomi and Minari-san
Along with wearing a simple kimono, young Shikomi-san start
their training to become a maiko by wearing a hairstyle
of their own choice. At this particular point of time in
her training, it is very important that she grow her hair
long to enable it to be pulled up into the many different
coiffures of a Maiko.
young Shikomi-san become Minarai-san for the month prior to her
debut as a Maiko, she now is able to have her hair dressed professionally
by a traditional hair dresser and adopt the wareshinobu hairstyle.
Along with this change, she will also start wearing the elaborate
kimono of the maiko. However, to indicate her lower and learning
status, her obi is in the handarari style, and is only
half length rather than floor length of a Maiko. This is generally
what sets her apart as a Minarai-san. With much trepidation no doubt,
after the comforts of an ordinary pillow, this is also the time
the young Minarai-san must learn to start sleeping on the traditional
pillow "omaku" (or makura).
The hairstyles of Maiko, along with their kanzashi, are
reminiscent of young girls from an age long gone and quite
unlike those of the older, more mature Geiko. A Maiko must
have grown her hair long during her Shikomi-san and Minarai-san
stages so that her own natural hair can be dressed up. Through
the duration of her training, a Maiko will wear up to five
different hairstyles: wareshinobu, ofuku, sakkou, katsuyama
and yakko-shimada. The latter two are hairstyles worn on
special occasions by senior Maiko and the sakkou style is
worn on her graduation from being a Maiko to becoming a
Geiko. Maiko are also known to don a variation of the shimada
mage hairstyle during the Miyako Odori.
For her Mishidashi (debut), the young Minarai-san has her
hair dressed in what is easily one of the most elaborate
hairstyles she will wear through the entire time as a maiko.
This particular hairstyle is decorated with a large and
interesting assortment of kanzashi.
Firstly, her hair is dressed up in the
traditional wareshinobu style, which is said to accentuate
the "loveliness" of the Maiko. This particular hairstyle
is easily recognizable due to the two strips of red silk
ribbon, with white spotted pattern, called kanoko (ka
no ko literally means child of deer, and is so called
due to the spots on the fawn's back), that has been woven
through the mage (the mass of hair, or "bun" on
the crown), and visible through the hair on the top and
normal occasions, the wareshinobu generally is decorated with kanzashi
relevant to the month and the season. For the event of Misidashi,
the new Maiko will wear two fan shaped bira-bira-kan (fluttering
kanzashi), tortoiseshell kanzashi worn on both sides at the front
and one at the back (with symbols representing the current season),
tortoiseshell kushi (comb), tama kanzashi (coral), kanoko-dome and
miokuri (two sets of three rectangular decorations of red silver
and gold, located at the bottom of the mage).
After her Mishidashi, when she is a full-fledged
Maiko, she continues to wear the wareshinobu hairstyle for
the next three years. Through this period of time, she will
wear her kanzashi in accordance to the strict monthly seasonal
Traditionally, a young Maiko would change to the ofuku hairstyle
of the senior Maiko after her mizuage, or when
she got her first danna. One point of time in history, this
change would have taken place between the ages of 13 and
15, although due to changes in laws, the age was slowly
raised. Whilst this event would mark a change in the maturity
and advancement of the Maiko, it no doubt would be of some
embarrassment to her as everyone would know what events
took place for the change of hairstyle! In the modern day
hanamachi, mizuage is a practice that no longer
takes place and the transformation to the ofuku hairstyle
now takes place on or around her 18th birthday or three
years after the start of her training.
Visually, from the front, the hairstyle
looks very similar to the wareshinobu except for the kanoko
showing at the top of the mage in the wareshinobu style.
At the back though, it is distinctly different with the
kanoko being replaced by a chirimen tegarami. The
tegarami, which is triangular in shape, is pinned
to the bottom of the mage, rather than being woven through
the mage as in the previous style.
The alternative name for the ofuku hairstyle
is derived from its distinct look, the momoware or, better
known, the "split peach" hairstyle. There is a debate though
on which style is actually the correct one for momoware
though. Some traditional hairstyle experts claim that it
is the same as the ofuku with no split at the top, where
others claim that the momoware actually has a small split
in the top of the mage similar to the wareshinobu, but not
as wide or prominent. Regardless, it has been stated that
the name emerged due to the shape being sexual and tantalizing
in nature, although this information has likely evolved
over the years due to the fact that this hairstyle was worn
by girls who had lost their virginity. It is highly possible
the real meaning is lost in time, and quite a bit less exciting.
The senior Maiko will wear the ofuku hairstyle
for the duration of her training up until two weeks to a
month (there appears to be conflicting time frames) before
her eri-kae (turning of collar) where she will don the elaborate
sakkou hairstyle. Being a senior Maiko, she is also now
able to wear both the katsuyama and yakko-shimada hairstyles
for special events and festivals.
Each July for the Gion Matsuri, senior Maiko wear the Katsyuama
hairstyle (also sometimes referred to as marumage despite
a noticeable difference between the two styles) with special
kanzashi to represent the summer. The origin of the katsuyama
is directly linked back to 17th century Edo to a very popular
and famous tayuu of the same name. It is also often seen
in historical plays, although the actual style is slightly
more exaggerated. The Katsuyama was also widely worn through
out the Edo era by married women, and only went out of fashion
at the beginning of the Showa era with the introduction
of a new style called sokuhatsu, a style reminiscent of
Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girls". Women were encouraged
to wear the shokuhatsu due to it being more conventional
and hygienic, and of course, more modern.
Aside from the ordinary hana-kanzashi and
jade tama-kanzashi, Maiko wear a special pink and silver
circular kanzashi called bonten that sits in the
middle of the mage showing through on both sides. A thick
red ribbon made from ro silk with various patterns
in silver/gold is also woven around the base and through
the centre of the mage.
Yakko-Shimada is the style that senior Maiko wear for the
New Year period, Setsubun and on the 1st of August.
For the New Year's period, senior Maiko
will wear the yakko-shimada style with kanzashi that has
an eyeless pigeon and dried ears of rice. In addition, she
will also wear hana-kanzashi, bira-bira kanzashi, tortoiseshell
kanzashi, kushi, a ring of coral and jade beads and a tama
kanzashi. The base of the mage is also wrapped with a thick
shibori ribbon of either blue or pink/red. She will wear
this particular style for approximately one week, carrying
over into the start of the New Year ceremonies for the hanamachi.
The second event that the yakko-shimada
is worn is for Setsubun, the eve of spring which occurs
on the 3rd of February. Whilst it is dressed similarly at
the back with thick shibori ribbon, the kanzashi worn for
this event is hana-kanzashi, and sometimes a blue and pink
The third event for the year is Hassaku
(the Giving of Thanks), which happens annually on the first
of August. On this particular day, Geiko and Maiko alike
pay their respects to their sensei, tea house proprietors
and others. The full formal black crested kimono ensemble
is required and is worn along with tortoiseshell kanzashi
and the appropriate hana-kanzashi for August.
Around the age of 21 (or earlier, if the Okasan feels the
Maiko is mature enough), preparations are put into place
for the Maiko's eri-kae ceremony, her debut as a Geiko.
Two weeks before this ceremony, the Maiko will have her
hair done up in the sakkou hairstyle.
Just as the hairstyle for the beginning
of her apprenticeship, her hairstyle signifying the end
of her apprentice is equally elaborate and striking. The
sakkou is easily recognizable by the hair being piled up
and twisted into loops, with one pony tail of hair hanging
over the back, cut at the end ("hashi no ke" hashi=bridge
ke= hair). Originally, it appears that this hairstyle
was worn by married women of the merchant class in the late
Edo era (through to the beginning of the Meiji era) and
that the cutting of the hair would normally have been performed
by the husband, as a sign of the woman's devotion to her
husband and his family. The cutting of the hair is now performed
by the Okasan and whilst the hair cut is not the Maiko's
real hair, the significance of this gesture remains the
same: to indicate that the Maiko is expressing her willingness
and resolution to devote her life to the arts of Geiko.
The kanzashi worn for the sakkou style
are a combination of the relevant hana-kanzashi for the
month, tortoiseshell kanzashi, one bira-bira kanzashi and
tama-kanzashi. In addition to the hana-kanzashi, she will
wear a kanzashi of a crane on the left hand side made from
either silver or gold mizuhiki cord. She also wears a kushi
and several kougai made from tortoiseshell, and last but
not least, three red ribbons at the front, wrapped within
the mage (along with thin strips of silver) and at the back.
According to Mizobuchi Hiroshi in his book, "Kyoto Hanamachi" and
the book "Beauty of hairstyle-tradition of Japan", Maiko
in the Pontocho district go through several other hairstyle changes
in the month leading up to the sakkou style. Mizobuchi gives names
of the hairstyles as umemodoki (also known as osomemage), oshidori
no hina, osafune, mizuguruma and ikiguruma. Along with these styles,
he also mentions other "modern" Maiko hairstyles worn in the Pontocho
district such as kikugasane, oshun and yuiwata. Unfortunately, there
is very little information about these additional hairstyles styles
or their significance and occasion to elaborate any further.
Author: Naomi Graham-Diaz
Date: July 2003
• Axia for translations and proof-reading.
• Fraise for proof-reading.