Most geisha and maiko will wake up around 10am to get dressed and ready for breakfast. They’ll eat together with the other geisha and maiko in their okiya around 10:30am and get ready to leave for their affairs during the day.
Classes start at 11am and are located at the kaburenjo. Each lesson is often 50 minutes long to give geisha and maiko time to move to their next lesson. Classes include dance, tea ceremony, calligraphy, and various musical instruments such as the shamisen. The shamisen is an integral part of geisha dances as it is often the main accompaniment to their dances. A shamisen is like a three stringed guitar that’s played with a plectrum.
They will break for lunch from 1pm until 2pm. During this time most women will return to their okiya for lunch or possibly stop off at a local cafe for a snack.
From 2pm to 4pm there will be more lessons, usually for maiko. Due to their seniority geisha will often take their lessons first in the morning so that they have the afternoon free for their visits. All geisha and maiko must pay their respects to the okaasan of the ochaya that they entertained at during the previous night and thank them for allowing them to work with them. If maiko don’t have any lessons first thing in the morning then they will do their rounds then.
At 4pm everyone will return to their okiya to get ready for the evening’s appointments. They will first have a light dinner or snack as geisha are not allowed to eat during an ozashiki, even though their clients will. After that they will apply their makeup, which usually takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. From there a dresser will come by and help each woman to get dressed as their kimono and obi are very hard to put on by themselves. After years of experience a dresser can dress each geisha or maiko in only 5 minutes.
The first ozashiki of the night begin at 5pm sharp, and geisha and maiko must be on hand before the party even begins. An ozashiki can be as long as a person is willing to pay for, but the average is an hour and half long. If the geisha or maiko is only scheduled for a single party in the evening then she may accompany her customers to a local bar where she will continue to be paid for her time.
The final ozashiki end around 1am, so geisha and maiko will not return to their okiya until anywhere between 1:30am and 2am. The first thing that they will do when they return is to take a bath and wash off their makeup. Once done they’ll usually relax for a bit and unwind from the day’s events. Most geisha and maiko don’t go to sleep until 3am. After 7 hours of sleep they’ll do it all over again the next day.
For the most part the schedules are the same each day, with some teachers teaching fewer lessons on Sunday as that’s the one day of the week in Japan where school is not in session.
Geisha and maiko get two days off each month, in which they will often sleep in late and go shopping with their friends. Maiko don’t have to wear their hair up in their usual elaborate styles, so it’s a relaxing time for everyone involved.
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