Snippet in Gion – Geisha?

By the numerous accounts of people seeing ‘geisha’ in the city, you may be left with the impression that they are a usual sight around Kyoto. In fact, most of the photographs and sightings are of tourists who have paid a hefty sum of over $120 to try out the elaborate dress for a few hours.

So far we have spotted a real maiko in a taxi and two geiko in an alley…or so we think. The rest, as the girls in the picture above, have been tourists like us.

Interesting: the well known image of the colourfully dressed woman is in fact of maiko, or apprentice geisha (or as they are called in Kyoto: geiko).
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How do you know which is which? Knowing a few facts helps.

Real maiko dont wear wigs – tourists do.

Maiko are the brightly dressed ones, while geiko are a lot less decorated.

Maiko have red collar, usually visible from the back, while geiko wear it white. The whiter and simpler the collar, the closer to being a full fledged geisha is the woman.

Real maiko wont carry empty bags, will move flowlessly on the uncomfortable shoes and under the kilograms of fabric that takes to create the attire.

Maiko and geiko are most active in the early evening, when they are going to appointments to perform at the teahouses.

Geiko are much harder to spot, as most of them live independently, outside of the okiya (geisha houses) areas.