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Photographer's Note

Maiko are apprentice geisha or geiko (depending on the area) and this young woman is a senior maiko as indicated by her makeup (white up to the hair line, partially covered lips and other details. The maiko here would be training for five years to become geiko-san and normally would not be seen here in Fukui, but further south in Kyoto.

It is unfortunate that many outsiders and even young Japanese people do not know what a geisha/geiko is.

"A Maiko and Geisha's profession is based on preserving the traditional arts such as dance, singing and music and entertaining in a non-sexual manner.

The confusion as to whether Geisha are prostitutes or not seems to have stemmed both from the close proximity Geisha had to courtesans in the Edo era and the fact that they did technically originate from the red light districts. The main culprit though appears to be from post World War II occupation by U.S. service men.

Many U.S. service came home from Japan with wild and raunchy stories of 'Gee-sha Girls' whom, for most of the part where not in fact real Geisha, but rather, ordinary Japanese women or prostitutes masquerading or calling themselves 'Geisha', largely because it was easiest for the service men to understand.

Of course, the large majority of service men did not know the difference, and despite the survival of the Geisha districts after the enforcement of the prostitution laws in 1957 and the subsequent closure of the red light districts, the misconception has haunted the flower and willow world ever since.
(from Immortal Geisha)

So what is a geisha/geiko?

"Geisha are professional female entertainers who perform traditional Japanese arts on banquets.

Girls who wish to become a geisha, have to go through a rigid apprenticeship during which they learn various traditional arts such as playing instruments, singing, dancing, but also conversation and other social skills." (from Japan-Guide.com).

For more information on maiko and geisha, I suggest a look at the Immortal Geisha web site and the books listed on their resources page.

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Additional Photos by Dan Bachmann (danbachmann) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 274 W: 31 N: 400] (1746)
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