The main differences between maiko and geisha (geiko) are age, appearance and skills.

Maiko is usually younger than 20, wears more colorful kimono with a red collar and lacks conversation skills. Maiko means “dancing child” which refers to apprentice geisha who are still training. Maiko have to live in the geisha lodging house (okiya) with their mother (okamisan) for 5 years. Maiko, the apprentice geisha,  are not allowed to have a cell phone, carry any money or have a boyfriend.

Maiko and Geisha (Geiko)

Maiko are the colorful and flashy apprentices. Maiko’s outfits are more eye-catching to divert attention from the lack of knowledge and experience. Geisha’s fashion is more mature and subtle. Maiko must live in the “mother”s house and depend on the little stipend she receives from the geisha house while geisha are more independent and live in a separate house of their own in the geisha neighborhoods. You can easily distinguish between geisha and maiko based on the image below that shows the differences in terms of outfit and appearance.

Maiko and Geisha

(*1) hanakanzashi in a form of big single flower

(*2) kushi (comb) instead of the hanakanzashi bridge

(*3) Both lips painted

(*4) More black accents in the makeup, such as eyeliner

(*5) Tied obiage (some districts)

(*6) Okobo shoes with colorful straps

(*7) Ofuku hairstyle

(*8)White collar in the front, red in the back.

Differences between Geisha, Geiko and Maiko

In the picture above: Maiko on the left and a senior geisha on the right.

“When the new maiko makes a mistake, she may be surprised, then ashamed, to find that, it is her older sister who will apologize to others. She learns.” ― Liza Dalby (Geisha, 25th Anniversary Edition)

Junior maiko and Geiko

Geisha = Geiko Maiko
Gei (arts) sha (person) Mai (dance) ko (young person)
Master in traditional arts, can have a sophisticated conversation Still training, talks less
Older than 20 Between 15 ~ 20
Not colorful Colorful
Completely white face Little space between hairline and the white powdered skin
Both lips are red Only the lower lip is red
Red around the eyes but less Red around the eyes
No pink blush around the cheeks Pink blush around the cheeks
Wig Natural hair
Different hair style with less hair ornaments Ware shinobu hairstyle (split peach and sides are also emphasized) with flowers and hairpins
Hairpin (kanzashi) are simpler and shorter Hairpins (kanzashi) are more elaborate. Maiko wears long flowerlike hairpins during the first year
Simpler kimono with simpler colors Brightly colored long sleeve kimono
The collars are white Back of the neck shows the inside of the kimono that is usually red and white
The obi (belt) is shorter The obi (belt) is long and colorful
Zori (low sandals) Okobo (high sandals)


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