The Apprentice Geisha of Gion (aka henshin)

A very helpful Flickr user posted a response to my photo “Geisha of Gion”. I thought I’d share the response, as I wasn’t aware of this at all. (Even after reading Memoirs of a Geisha 😉 ) I feel like such a tourist.

“Sorry, but this lady is just a regular lady dressed up as a maiko (an apprentice geisha) for the day. This act is called “henshin”. But this is a lovely composed picture!

Geisha of Gion

(1)really worn down or “half-size” okobo (tall shoes) – real maiko have very tall okobo and get new okobo when they become too worn down. Henshin often have “half size” okobo because most common women would not be able to walk in the very tall okobo or maiko. Additionally, these half size okobo get worn down because they are worn by so many customers every day all day. here are maiko okobo:

(2) her hair ornaments don’t match the season. October kanzashi look like for junior maiko and for senior maiko (i.e. it is chrysanthamum). her ornaments look like fuji perhaps (looks like ) which are for may.

(3) Her collar and tied obiage (red little belt above the big obi-belt) signal that she is very senior, but she has bright red hanao (shoe straps). Senior maiko wear pink, purple, and blue (in order of seniority).

(4) other things is that the condition of the red strands in her hair is poor (I real maiko okaasan would retire these before they become this condition) and she is too old to be a maiko (maiko in Kyoto are between 15-20 (21 is kind of really pushing it) years old and this lady is beyond that (although this can be hard to tell).

If you have pictures of her back I can probably notice some other things ^_^. Also, a mistake not here but very common it to have mismatching seniority in hair ornaments and collar. Look here: these girls all have very white collars (sign of senior maiko) but dangling hair ornaments (ornaments for a first year maiko). These dangling hair ornaments are different from the fuji kanzashi on your henshin. Fuji are always flowing down but not in the same way if you compare them. Other common things are empty kago (bags) and wigs (maiko are not allowed to use wigs and must use their real hair to make Nihongami).”