The hairstyles of maiko are the same as those worn by other girls their own age during the Edo Period and are worn to show seniority and rank. All hairstyles for maiko will feature a red piece of cloth tied in the front called a Chinkoro (ちんころ), which is a physical representation of their childhood and immaturity. The first hairstyle that a maiko will wear is called Wareshinobu (割れしのぶ) and is characterized with its iconic bun that has a red piece of cloth tied through it to match the chinkoro. A special hair ornament known as a Kanokodome (鹿の子留め) is worn in the centre of this bun as a show of opulence.
After 2 to 3 years a maiko will then style her hair in the Ofuku (おふく) style, which is characterized by a triangular piece of cloth pinned into the back of their hair. The cloth, called a Tegara (手柄), will start out as red and eventually move onto more muted colours like pink, or pastel blue. The tegara and its colours show that she is now a senior maiko and will continue to wear this style until her sakkō period.
During special formal occasions senior maiko will also wear additional hairstyles. Yakko Shimada (奴島田) features a high bun with a cloth tied underneath and a string of beads tied on top that’s worn for New Year’s visits in January. Katsuyama (勝山) showcases a tubular shape with a cloth tied underneath and two special hair ornaments known as Bonten (梵天) placed on either side of the roll that’s worn during the Gion Festival (祇園祭) in July.
Finally a maiko will wear the Sakkō (先笄) style at the end of her apprenticeship. It is characterized by a myriad of tortoiseshell hair ornaments, a set of silver wires that resemble the wings of a dragonfly, and a tuft of hair that hangs down at the back of the style.
A maiko will use her own hair for these elaborate styles and will see a special hairstylist once a week to have it reset. During this time she must sleep on a special pillow known as a Takamakura (高枕) that keeps the hair from falling apart. Traditionally the okaasan of an okiya would sprinkle rice or bran around the takamakura of a new maiko to make sure that she was using the takamakura properly. If the maiko rolled off the pillow then her hair would become covered in grains and she’d have to go to the hair dressers and have the style set all over again.
Due to their seniority, geisha will wear wigs called Katsura (かつら) when they entertain. This was originally adopted after World War II when the number of hairstylists was very low and they could not manage to style both the hair of the geisha and the maiko. A geisha’s wig is styled in the Geiko Shimada (芸妓島田) style, named for the term used for geisha in western Japan, and is taken care of by a wig specialist who will restyle the wig once a month to keep it looking fresh. Because they use a wig geisha no longer have to use a takamakura like maiko.
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