What is a Maiko in Kyoto?

What is a Maiko in Kyoto?

Japanese culture and tradition is something that stands unique and is widely spoken about across different countries. The shows and films rooted in their culture also help in creating more common knowledge about their traditions. In that way, most of us would have come across multiple terms like Geisha, Geiko, Maiko, Makanai and others.

These are common terms in Japan used to refer to different people. While most series refer to the culture of Japan, one such that has been most talked about in recent times is the Netflix drama “The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House”. So what is it about? At the center of the drama is a young girl named Kiyo who ended up working as a makanai cook at a “yakata”, which is like a dormitory and a production company for maiko in Kyoto.

So, here is what each of these terms refers to.


Makanai in this series refers to a hired person who is in charge of preparing meals for employees at some workplace. In this popular series of a recent Netflix drama that takes place in the beautiful city of Kyoto, Kiyo from Aomori Prefecture, the 15 year old heroin, finds a position at a maiko house as a makanai chef because of her excellent ability to cook. She works at a maiko house where girl who dream of becoming a maiko live, learn and practice various kinds of art performances such as singing and dancing. In the Japanese language, makanai actually refers to both the dishes prepared for employees and also a person who prepares such meals. Click to discover more about makanai.

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This brings us to the discussion of Maiko. But before we understand that, we need to know the meanings of Geisha and Geiko. Geisha are people who are highly trained in Japanese arts like traditional music, singing, dancing, etc. Geiko is used for Geisha who is from Kyoto.

So, now what is the difference between Maiko and Geiko in Kyoto? While Geiko refers to the trained artists, Maiko refers to an apprentice geiko. So, training in Japanese arts may take up to 5 years for them to graduate as geiko. So, a person who is undergoing the training to become a geiko is called a maiko. So, in the series, Kiyo works as a person who cooks meals at the house where Maiko, that is the apprentice geishas live together.

Maiko has not yet started to perform on her own. Typically, Maiko s under 20 years old and lives with a Geiko or experienced Maiko or Shikomisan, girls who are training to become Maiko. They live under the supervision of Okami and the training place is commonly called Okiya.

You can find out more in this article.


The hairstyle of Maiko varies depending on their training stage. Called nihongami, traditional Japanese hairstyles, this elaborate arrangement of hair varies based on rank, formality and occasion. Unlike Geiko, most Maiko use their own hair with additions of extensions. Maiko also wear a few pretty hair ornaments like fans, tiny ball-shaped ornaments, combs, etc.


As we already discussed, Maiko never wear wigs of any kind. Therefore, they normally have quite a noticeable part of skin that is not painted at the hairline. The eyes will be outlined in red and black and also their eyebrows might be colored with pink or red. Painting their lips also varies based on their training year. For instance, Maiko in their very first year will not have their upper lip painted red. Whereas beginning with their second year, they will have both upper and lower lips painted.

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The Maiko wear a kimono style known as hikizuri, a trailing skirt. These are around 200-240 centimetres long with the skirt featuring a lightly-padded hem. They also wear a black kurotomesode-style hikizuri for formal occasions. This formal dress also signifies the okiya they belong to.

About David Sol

I'm Wissam Saddique, and I'm a blogger and content Writer. I've been on this exciting journey for about three years now, starting my blogging adventure back in 2020. As a dedicated blogger and content writer, I have had the privilege of exploring various topics and sharing my thoughts, experiences, and insights with my readers. Whether it's travel, technology, lifestyle, or any other area that piques my interest, I love diving deep into subjects and crafting engaging content.

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