From wikipedia – Maiko (舞妓?) is an apprentice geisha in western Japan, especially Kyoto. Their jobs consist of performing songs, dances, and playing the shamisen (three-stringed Japanese instrument) for visitors at a feast. Maiko are usually aged 15 to 20 years old and become geisha after learning how to dance (a kind of Japanese traditional dance), play the shamisen, and learning Kyō-kotoba (dialect of Kyoto), regardless of their origins.
Here, the maiko I saw in Kyoto…
And for a fascinating glimpse into the elaborate make up worn by geishas, watch this video – the red eye liner is particularly interesting. And the lips painted thin and red. I could spend all day (and almost did) watching more of the maiko / geisha getting ready videos.
Update: Yuki says on flickr – “hensin, or fake geisha. She is an ordinary girl who has visited a “transformation studio’ so that she can be dressed like this for a few hours in order to take photos. Not a real maiko [apprentice geisha] – Don’t worry though, henshin are sooo common during the day, many tourists come to Kyoto every year, some come just to see the maiko & become henshin. Its like how you can pay to dress up as a cowboy in those old western towns. It’s a fun attraction, but henshin shouldn’t be confused with the real thing”
OMG, imagine going through all this effort just for photographs!