Professor Emerita, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, UNC Chapel Hill

Month: April 2021

How a Star Maiko Makes a Good Impression: Afternoon Greetings


Boudewijn Huysmans   Unsplash

The two maiko catch sight of Momohana walking purposefully.  Where is she going? It’s their afternoon free time between lessons and evening parties.  “I bet she’s making afternoon greetings at the teahouses,” says one. “What a serious girl.” Impressed, the two maiko resolve to make more effort themselves. This scene in Koyama Aiko’s maiko manga introduces the “afternoon greeting.”

A maiko’s afternoon greetings: What’s the purpose? How may we learn from the practice?

Today’s post takes us to the custom of ochaya mawari, that is, “making the rounds of the teahouses.”  What’s the purpose of this practice?  What can it tell us about the importance of even brief face-to-face communication?

The maiko must develop good relations with teahouse managers

Maiko and geiko depend on invitations to participate in ozashiki (evening teahouse parties).  That makes it important to stay on good terms with all the women who manage teahouses in their hanamachi (geisha neighborhood).  Making the rounds of teahouses during free time in the afternoon offers one way to do this. As a new member of the hanamachi, the maiko must get her face known in the neighborhood. Ochaya-mawari presents a time-honored way to make a good impression.

Artist Koyama explains the custom

Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House [Maiko-san-chi no Makanai-san], manga by Koyama Aiko. Episode 32, Volume 4. Shōgakukan, 2017.

In this episode, Koyama’s narrator explains the custom as going to each teahouse one by one to make a quick greeting.

In her manga series Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House, Koyama Aiko introduces many hanamachi customs.  Momohana, her star maiko, has remarkable talent. But she also works tirelessly to become the best maiko that she can be.  Naturally, she leads the others in taking her afternoon greetings seriously.


Momohana greets the teahouse mother. Maiko-san-chi no Makanai-san, manga by Koyama Aiko. Episode 32, Volume 4. Shōgakukan, 2017.

As Momohana’s example illustrates, the courtesy call is a quick greeting. She slides open the door to the  genkan (entryway). This is a space viewed as in-between the public and private. Next, Momohana calls out in the hanamachi dialect, “Excuse me, it’s Momohana.” (すんまへん、百はなどす。Sunmahen, Momohana dosu).  She mentions that her schedule is open at 8pm, so she would be free to attend an ozashiki at this teahouse.

The smile on the okami-san’s  (manager’s) face shows that Momohana is making a good impression indeed. Of course, that Momohana earns praise for making the rounds implies that she is an unusually dutiful maiko.

Afternoon greetings as a staple of maiko life

Komomo and Naoyuki Ogino. A Geisha’s Journey: My Life as a Kyoto Apprentice. 2008.

We find the importance of the maiko’s “afternoon rounds” emphasized in many books on hanamachi life.  In A Geisha’s Journey (2008), Komomo describes how, as a maiko, she made lunchtime “visits to each of the almost forty tea houses in Miyagawa-chō, where many of the ozashiki (evening parties) were held. Believe or not, I did this every day for two whole years, just to drum up business for our okiya” (32).

Geisha, A Life.

Writing about hanamachi life in the 1960s and 1970s, Mineko Iwasaki notes even “geiko had to pay their courtesy calls in the afternoon, in order to remain on good terms with the owners of the ochaya and the senior maiko and geiko. If any member of the community was sick or injured, protocol demanded that they call on her promptly to voice their concern” (79-80).

Face-to-face communication: A useful skill beyond the hanamachi

Even in our digital age, experts in organizational relations promote in-person communication. In “The Lost Art of Face to Face Communication and Why it’s still important,” The Lee Group champions the practice for several reasons.  Meeting people in person can communicate through body language, help build relationships, and foster collaboration. It also allows for better discussion of sensitive issues. One may pick up cues in person that get missed in email.

We also understand that meeting in person takes extra effort and time.  This shows a friendly respect in ways that texts and emails cannot.

Isolated from the usual face-to-face encounters during the pandemic, I missed casual human interactions.  Whether pleasant, irritating, or comic, they added stimulation to my day.  Now that it’s easier to go out again–still masked, safely distant–I will embrace the maiko’s practice of getting out to greet shopkeepers and passersby in my neighborhood. Learning from the hanamachi, I realize this practice builds community.


Iwasaki Mineko and Rande Brown. Geisha, a Life. Translated by Rande Brown. New York: Atria, 2002.

Komomo and Naoyuki Ogino. A Geisha’s Journey: My Life as a Kyoto Apprentice. Translated by Gearoid Reidy and Philip Price. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2008.

Koyama Aiko. Maiko-san-chi no Makanai-san. Serialized manga. Episode 32, Volume 4. Shōgakukan, 2017.  For its new online anime adaptation, NHK World translates the manga title as Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House.

Jan Bardsley, “How a Star Maiko Makes a Good Impression: Afternoon Greetings,”, April 15, 2021.

Girls Culture Mascot Chibimaruko-chan, as cute as a maiko

Who was this happy little girl in maiko cosplay?
The beloved manga character Chibimaruko-chan.

Today I catch up with manga scholar Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase (Vassar College) to find out more about this likeable character.  What’s the story of this delightful girl and her appeal? How does she fit easily into the girls culture represented by contemporary maiko?

Indulge in a perky musical warm-up

But first, let’s warm up by listening to the toe-tapping theme song for the animated version:


Imagining the 1970s middle-class family in Japan

First issue of Chibi-Maruko-Chan comic by Sakura Momoko. Wikipedia.

 Chibimaruko-chan, an enormously popular manga, ran about ten years from 1986-1996. Initially serialized in the girls’ comic Ribon, it was transformed into anime in the early 1990s. You can find versions of the anime subtitled in English online, as in the warm-up example.

But manga artist Sakura Momoko sets the comic in the 1970s. Why choose the 1970s?

Ms. Momoko Sakura. Posted on Twitter by CGTN. Aug. 27. 2018.





Nostalgia as healing

The Sakura Family.

For one reason, Sakura Momoko (1965-2018) came of age in the 1970s. The comic re-imagines her own middle-class upbringing in Shizuoka, the lovely seaside city near Mt. Fuji.  The 1970s setting also has sparked pleasant memories for many fans. During the fast-paced, high-octane life of the affluent 1980s, Dr. Dollase reasons, readers found moments of relaxation and nostalgia in the charming comic of ordinary middle-class life.

“The manga presented values which were different from the money-centered values of the 1980s bubble economy era. Chibimaruko-chan always provided readers of that time with a sense of comfort, peace, and iyashi (healing),” says Dr. Dollase.

Chibimaruko as a girl with a mind of her own

Who is the lead character?  The artist names her eight-year-old character after herself: first name, Momoko; family name, Sakura. But as the manga frame above explains, everyone calls her Chibimaruko. Literally, her nickname means “little” (chibi) “round” (maru) girl. (Chan is a familiar suffix often used for children).

Dr. Dollase views the name as showing acceptance of petite Japanese bodies that often differ from the tall, willowy Anglo bodies promoted in global fashion media. As chibi, the girl is kawaii, too, suggesting vulnerability and the need for protection.  She can both speak her mind and remain childlike.

But, Chibimaruko-chan is not the little princess typically found in comics for girls (shōjo manga). Princess girls favor frills, western-style furnishings, and everything feminine.  In contrast, Chibimaruko-chan is precocious. She can be sloppy and lazy. She’s a daydreamer. Her habit of procrastinating gets her in trouble. But these flaws, too, are part of her appeal.

“An interesting thing about the Chibimaruko-chan comic is that each person reads it differently. Small kids might enjoy it because the characters in Chibimaruko-chan are cute, funny, and goofy,” explains Dr. Dollase.

The cartoon also had broad appeal across age groups.

The broad appeal of Chibimaruko-chan

Dr. Dollase remembers, “I enjoy reading Chibimaruko-chan because it reminds me of my childhood growing up in the 1970s. I read this comic in real-time when it was serialized in Ribon (comic magazine). At that time, I was a college student.” She recalls how different the character seemed.  “At first, I was shocked by this manga, because it was so un-shōjo-like. But I quickly became a fan.”

At home with the Sakura family. April, 11, 2021.

In her insightful chapter, “The Cute Little Girl Living in the Imagined Japanese Past: Sakura Momoko’s Chibimaruko-chan,” Dr. Dollase explains the history and appeal of the popular character.  She notes how Chibimaruko enjoys a home life that conveys affection, equality, and belonging.

Watching video clips, we observe how artist Sakura Momoko uses iconic images of the healthy 1970s family. The Sakura family gathers around the low-table in their Japanese-style living room.  Here, they eat, talk, and watch TV together.

Dr. Dollase writes, “Chibimaruko-chan provides readers with a warm and comfortable space in which they feel protected, at home, and more importantly, happy to be Japanese” (42).

Yet, this is the “imagined Japanese past.” It is one that excises references to social problems. For example, the growing problem of environmental pollution caused major concern in the 1970s. By the same token, American TV created much the same images of  familial innocence in the 1950s and 60s. White, middle-class families featured in shows like Father Knows Best (1954), Leave it to Beaver (1957), and My Three Sons (1960).

A new kind of Japanese father

Mr. Hiroshi Sakura, the father of Chibimaruko.

Dr. Dollase also points out how the friendly father-daughter relationship in  Chibimaruko-chan reflected actual changes in the family structure amid growing affluence. Mothers took on more power in the home in the 1960s and 1970s as many men spent long hours away from home. The stereotypical salaryman’s life revolved around his commute, work, and company leisure activities.

Once conceived as cranky, powerful patriarchs, fathers took on new positions in 1970s comics. Sometimes they were almost out of the picture. Artist Sakura Momoko, however, uses the fantasy power of manga to imagine a positive father-daughter relationship, one that would appeal to girl readers. Mr. Sakura is  an “affectionate, friend-like father” (45).  Dr. Dollase remarks that this exploration of father-daughter relationships marked an innovative feature of this 1980s comic despite its 1970s setting (45).

The happy bubble of girls’ culture

Dr. Dollase imagines it was the inviting power of girl culture that attracted fans.  “The world of Chibimaruko-chan is a young woman’s protected ‘bubble’ that provides her with coziness, confidence, and a sense of belonging” (46).  In much the same way, manga and fiction about maiko create a girls’ world, too, portraying girlhood as a time of freedom and discovery, one that everyone can retrieve through enjoying these fantasy characters. Charms, like the Chibimaruko-chan maiko strap, happily transport us there.

“I see many similarities between Chibimaruko and maiko. The Chibimaruko/Maiko ornament that you included on this page is so cute and perfect! I think that Chibimaruko and maiko are catalysts for girls and women’s imagination,” says Dr. Dollase.

Thanks, Dr. Dollase!

Thanks very much to Dr. Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase for participating in today’s blog post.  For more analysis, I recommend reading Dr. Dollase’s chapter on the topic and her book Age of Shōjo.  And maybe take a trip to Chibimaruko-chan land, too.

Chibimaruko-chan Land. Theme park in Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture.


Dollase, Hiromi Tsuchiya.  “The Cute Little Girl Living in the Imagined Japanese Past: Sakura Momoko’s Chibimaruko-chan.” In International perspectives on Shojo and Shojo Manga: the influence of girl culture, edited by Masami Toku, 40-49.  New York: Routledge, 2015., “Sazae-san” and “Chibi Maruko-chan”: Two of Japan’s Most Beloved Anime,”, accessed April 11, 2021.

For more on the shōjo characters in Japanese fiction, I highly recommend Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase’s book, Age of Shōjo: The Emergence, Evolution, and Power of Japanese Girls’ Magazine (SUNY Press, 2019).

Jan Bardsley, “Girls Culture Mascot Chibimaruko-chan, as cute as a maiko,”, April 12, 2021.




The Maiko’s Bald Spot and Repair Party

This is not a psychiatric hospital.
Stop acting like madwomen.

Bored, the Kyoto geiko couldn’t resist boisterous antics. Their famous manners gave way to mischief.

Stuck in a Tokyo hospital recuperating after minor surgery to repair their bald patches, Iwasaki Mineko and her three geiko companions got restless. After all, “it was springtime and we were frisky” (Iwasaki and Brown, 257). Trying to cheer them up, their Tokyo clients sent fine dishes from local restaurants.

Geisha, A Life. 2002

But the geiko sneaked out to shop, going out on the town at night “even in our bandages” (257).  When they line-danced to the local gas station one afternoon, the head nurse lost her temper. “This is not a psychiatric hospital. Stop acting like madwomen” (257).

The sight of four geiko dancing a conga line on a Tokyo street would make a delightful manga.  One of the funniest stories in Iwasaki Mineko’s Geisha, A Life, the incident begs the question, “How did these geiko develop bald spots in the first place?”


What does the maiko bald spot mean?

In today’s blogpost, we explore the maiko’s bald spot. We learn how it can mark both pride and shame, and why present-day maiko are unlikely to develop the patch.  Returning to Iwasaki Mineko’s memoir, we see how the patch emphasized her lack of control over her career in 1970.

A patch the size of a five-yen coin

Specially trained hairdressers form the maiko’s elaborate Edo-era hairstyle from the girl’s own shoulder-length hair. She must take care to keep the style in place for 7-10 days.

Senior maiko in foreground wears ofuku hairstyle. Daniel Bachler. Wikimedia Commons.

5 yen coin, 1970. Photo on ebay April 7, 2021.

Liza Dalby explains how “pulling tight a small bundle of hair for the basis of the maiko’s hairstyle” causes a small section of the hair to fall out (45-46).  It never grows back. Lesley Downer describes the mark as a “perfectly round little bald patch on the crown” of the maiko’s head (115).





The maiko’s bald spot is the same size as a 5-yen coin.  Roughly equivalent to the size of a nickel in the U.S., the coin is small, only 22 mm in diameter (about 3/4 of an inch).  Pronounced go en (5 yen), the coin carries the meaning of “good fortune,” also pronounced go en. This makes it a popular coin offering at Shinto shrines. Similarly, some former maiko view their bald spot positively.

The maiko’s bald patch as “medal of honor”

Liza Dalby recalls how one teahouse manager referred to the spot as “the maiko’s medal of honor” — “a mark of the hardships of the training she undertook” (45-46).  Since today’s maiko undergo a short apprenticeship, many debuting at 17, “their scalps are probably safe” (46). To many elders in the community, as Dalby explains, the lack of a bald spot speaks to maiko training losing the strict discipline of old.  She writes, “from the point of view of most modern Japanese the discipline of the maiko and the geisha is still redoubtable” (46).

Embarrassment at a Tokyo hair salon
“It felt like a slap in the face.”

But not all in Japan interpret evidence of a maiko past positively. As I discuss in Maiko Masquerade, maiko have been stigmatized, especially in 1950s films, as women of the “water trade,” the realm of nightlife entertainment understood to involve sex work. Tokyo stylists, as we see below, sometimes mistook the patch for scalp disease or the mark of an old-fashioned, unstylish woman.

Former Gion geiko Arai Mameji, who debuted as a maiko in 1969, writes about her elder sisters running into trouble when having their hair done in Tokyo.

Arai Mameji. 2015. Gion Mameji: Chotto mukashi no Gion machi
(Mameji of the Gion: The Gion of Recent Past).
Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Publications, Inc.

One stylist took the bald patch as a sign of a skin illness. She rushed to get another brush so she wouldn’t contaminate the ones the salon usually used, mortifying the former maiko.

Once Arai, too, knocked herself out trying to dress in high fashion, complete with high heels, to visit a Tokyo salon.  To avoid the same alarm her elder sisters had caused, Arai mumbled to the stylist that she had a bald patch since she’d been a maiko and wore the elaborate hairstyle of the apprentice. Whatever the reason, the stylist reacted impatiently.

She “shut me up, blurting, ‘You were a maiko, right’, acting as though she couldn’t be bothered with such triviality when she was so busy. It felt like a slap in the face.” The exchange left Arai disheartened. “I felt very disappointed, realizing I am “countrified” after all” (Arai, 60).

“Expo Baldies”: Iwasaki Mineko’s concern 

In Crimson Fragrance,  artist Yamato Waki’s famous manga adaptation of Iwasaki’s memoir, discovery of the bald patch alarms maiko Sakuya (the Iwasaki character).

Yamato Waki’s manga adaptation of Iwasaki Mineko’s autobiography

Having been a maiko since 1965 and wearing her hairstyle for long periods of time, Sakuya has a bald patch forming. This makes her plead to “turn the collar” to become a geiko. Since geiko wear wigs when in formal costume, Sakuya would no longer worry about her scalp. But Sakuya is refused.

“Bald!”. Sakuya’s face shows alarm. Crimson Fragrance, Vol. 3.  Yamato Waki.








Japan’s 1970 World Exposition (Osaka Expo ’70) was coming up.  “The powers that be” requested Gion to have many maiko on hand to perform in the Japanese pavilion to show the traditional arts (Iwasaki and Brown, 207).  Thus, the men in charge of Gion ordered maiko to postpone their transition to geiko until after Expo.

Yamato’s manga shows Sakuya’s frustration.  She cannot gain any sympathy from the men over her fears about baldness. As an heir to an okiya, Sakuya cannot quit Gion easily either.

As a result of their lengthy apprenticeship, “all of us maiko got the bald patch.”  We were teased as “Expo baldies” (Banpaku hage) (vol. 3, 12).

The Maiko Bald Patch Repair Party

In Geisha, A Life, Iwasaki describes the surgery to close her maiko bald patch.  “The operation consisted of snipping the bald skin and pulling the edges together to tighten it, similar to a facelift. My incision was closed with twelve teensy stitches” (256-57).

It’s hard to imagine why such a small surgery meant staying for days in the hospital. But it sounds like Iwasaki and her geiko friends knew how to make the most of it.

Our own vocational bodies?

Reading about the maiko’s bald patch makes me wonder about how all of us wear our life experiences on our bodies to some degree.  I see the small scars on my face left from chicken pox and a minor fall as a child.  But what about signs of my work? In my case, a very loud voice from years as a teacher. For that, I am not sure there is any repair.

I’d like to thank my friend Aki Hirota for help understanding Arai Mameji’s account of bald spot mishaps.


Arai Mameji. Gion Mameji: Chotto mukashi no Gion machi [Mameji of the Gion: The
Gion of recent past]. Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Publications, 2015

Dalby, Liza. Geisha. Berkeley: University of California Press,1983, 2008.

Downer, Lesley. Women of the Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of the Geisha. New York: Broadway, 2001.

Iwasaki Mineko and Rande Brown. Geisha, a Life. Translated by Rande Brown. New York: Atria, 2002.

Yamato Waki and Iwasaki Mineko. Kurenai niou [Crimson fragrance]. Serialized manga. 2003–07, rpt Tokyo: Kōdansha, 2009.

Jan Bardsley, “The Maiko’s Bald Spot and Repair Party,”, April 8, 2021.




Mokuroku celebrate cast of Lady Maiko.

A wall full of bright mokuroku posters! Typically, they mark the debut of a new maiko or geiko. But these posters cleverly celebrate the upcoming premiere of a maiko movie.  It’s the 2014 musical, Lady Maiko, loosely based on My Fair Lady.

What’s the story of actual mokuroku? How do we read their signs?  We explore these questions in today’s blogpost, returning to read this maiko movie poster, too.

What is the mokuroku?

On the day of her debut, the maiko sits before mokuroku sent in her honor. Sankei West 2015.12.11

Photos of debuting maiko and geiko often show them sitting in front of large, red-rimmed, gaily colored posters (mokuroku目録).  The abundance of bright color and good wishes celebrates their career milestone. Although books on the hanamachi frequently show these vivid posters, few explain them.

Who commissions mokuroku?

Supporters of the new maiko or geiko—regular teahouse clients, elder sister geiko, Kabuki actors, and others associated with her hanamachi—have mokuroku made and sent to her okiya. There, they will be hung on the walls in the entrance and outside the okiya, too.  They will be up for a short period, from a few days before the event to a few days after. My sources report that it’s unclear when this practice started.

How large are mokuroku? What materials are used?

Mokuroku are roughly 100 x 80 centimeters (40 x 32 inches). The paper is hōshogami (奉書紙), defined by Jim Breen as a “variant of traditional white Japanese paper, made from high-quality mulberry wood.”

In the past artists used natural mineral pigments for color, but today they use acrylic paints. They also use black ink.  It appears that mokuroku cost about 7,000 yen (roughly US$70) apiece.

How do women remember the mokuroku gifted them?  One former maiko-geiko describes her reaction.

“I was lucky to have many mokuroku displayed…My goodness, what a festive sight it was.”

Arai Mameji. 2015. Gion Mameji: Chotto mukashi no Gion machi
(Mameji of the Gion: The Gion of Recent Past).
Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Publications, Inc.

In her 2015 memoir, Gion leader Arai Mameji, who debuted as a maiko in 1969, recalls the many mokuroku brought to her okiya by the dresser on the day before her misedashi (debut).  Each one bore the name of the supporter who had gifted it.

Arai exclaims, “I was lucky to have many mokuroku displayed. Naturally, they were hung on the walls, but even on the ceiling, too. My goodness, what a festive sight it was” (26).

She credits her resourceful elder geiko sister for using her own network to encourage this support.  Since a new maiko has no clients, Arai writes, she must depend on the active support of her elder sister. Arai reports that the mokuroku custom began in Gion, finding favor in other hanamachi, too.

Let’s take a closer look at one mokuroku to learn the conventions.

This dynamic mokuroku was created by the current head of Eirakuya, the fourteenth Hosotsuji Ihee. Eirakuya is the legendary textile firm in Kyoto. Hosotsuji Ihee displays this mokuroku on his blog:

Who does this mokuroku honor?

You will find the new maiko or geiko’s name in large script to the left.

  1. (Left): The maiko’s name here is Mamechiho 豆ちほ
  2. (Lower left): Literally, “to [Mamechiho] san.” さん江

is an ateji, a character used for its sound.
The usual kana would be , used to indicate to whom something is directed.

Who is congratulating her? Eirakuya Hosotsuji Ihee

You will find the well-wisher’s name in large script in the lower right/lower center. Eirakuya  永楽屋  the firm’s name, (to the right) is written vertically here and read top-to-bottom.

Hosotsuji Ihee 細辻伊兵衛  has written his name diagonally. Read this right-to-left. He is also the artist of this mokuroku.

The red strip below the artist’s name is a decorative element commonly used in congratulatory greetings and, as thin strips of paper, on gifts: noshi 熨斗. This one signifies that the name above is that of the donor.

What is  in the middle? Good luck symbols

You will find large, multicolored good luck symbols, engimono 縁起物 in the center of every maiko mokuroku.

This mokuroku has a cluster of good luck symbols. We see the “lucky bamboo grass” (fukuzasa 福笹) with lucky charms attached.

The charms: Ebisu (left), the sea bream and god of good luck, 恵比寿; Daikokuten (right), a god of prosperity 大黒天; and round “gold” coins, koban 小判. These “lucky grass” arrangements are also associated with the January celebrations at Ebisu Shrines in the Kansai area.

JAPAN INFO has good explanations of several engimono:    Here’s another example of Lucky Grass with charms attached:

Lucky Grass. Garden Plus.

What is written at the top of mokuroku?
Hopes for good fortune

The mokuroku artist chooses among several fixed celebratory phrases to pen at the top of the poster in sumi ink.  Here are some common ones.  I give the ones that appear in this mokuroku in red:

Ichihigara:  一日柄:Better every day

Hibi ni kagayaku:  日々輝く:  Every day may you shine even more

Hibi ni noboru:  日々昇:  Every day may you ascend even higher

Hibi ni nigiwai:日々賑わい: Every day do a thriving business

Takusan  たくさん:Much [success]

Daininki 大人気:Great popularity [Note the abbreviation of the old form of 氣 as 米]

What is in the top right hand corner?  More noshi

Want to see many more maiko mokuroku? 

Try using the kanji for “maiko mokuroku” 舞妓目録 in the search engine. (If you only put mokuroku目録, you will find the envelopes and certificates used for other celebratory events in Japan).

You’ll notice that the basic layout of the poster remains the same, but the lucky charms in the middle, and of course, the names of the donor/recipient change.

What about the mokuroku movie poster?

How does our new knowledge of mokuroku conventions let us in on the humor of the movie poster with which we began?

Mokuroku celebrate cast of Lady Maiko.

We see the same congratulatory messages at the top and good luck charms at center. But the “maiko” name? It’s that of the film’s “maiko” actress, Ms. Mone Kamishiraishi 上白石 萌音   She’s pictured here wearing a red skirt and white blouse.  The lovely umbrellas, also associated with maiko, celebrate the movie, too.  On the left, the movie’s Japanese title, and to the right, “Great hit! Great hit!”  A smart way to use hanamachi custom to promote this maiko musical.

Wishing you much success this week!


Ōta Tōru and Hiratake Kōzō, eds. Kyō no kagai: Hito, waza, machi [Kyoto’s hanamachi: People, arts, towns]. Tokyo: Nippon Hyōronsha, 2009.

Suo Masayuki, dir. Maiko wa redī [Lady Maiko]. Tokyo: Toho, 2014.

Jan Bardsley, “The Artful Debut, Congratulatory Mokuroku Posters,” April 5, 2021.



A Maiko April Fool’s Day Story

The Maiko who went to America,“Amerika ni itta maiko-san.” Artist Kinoshita Yoshihisa. Shōjo magazine, April 1, 1954 (illustration within magazine; Kobunsha, publisher).

Here’s a delightful maiko image for celebrating the beginning of April.  Happy April Fool’s Day!

This story features  Satō Shigemi 佐藤茂美, a popular young singer of children’s songs who recorded with King Records. Here, she plays the role of a maiko.

The Maiko who went to America

The text alongside the image goes something like this:

“Captivated by the sight of the maiko walking gracefully in the American city in her furisode kimono and darari obi, the patrol officer forgets all about directing the traffic. The cars on the road are unable to move.  Looking on in surprise, the maiko feels like singing one of her favorite songs.”  ”This is my April’s Fool prank.”

The comic image of the maiko abroad

Artist Kinoshita imagines a policeman directing traffic in New York City. Everything comes to a stop when the man is enchanted by the flowing sleeves and long obi worn by an adorable maiko. An American serviceman and a little girl standing nearby seem equally surprised.  With her pretty blue parasol, colorful kimono, and kanzashi hair ornaments, the maiko makes a fetching—and traffic-stopping— sight.

Shōjo, a magazine for girls

This story comes from the April 1954 Shōjo  (Girl). A monthly illustrated magazine, Shōjo introduced movies and teen stars such as Satō Shigemi. Shōjo carried lots of fiction and manga appealing to girl readers (Kikuyo Library). Kōbunsha published Shōjo from 1949 to 1963.  In Maiko Masquerade, I write about the maiko as shōjo.


Kikuyo Library:
Accessed February 11, 2021.

For analysis of Japanese magazines for girls, see Sarah Frederick. “Girls’ Magazines and the Creation of Shōjo Identities.” In Routledge Handbook of Japanese Media, edited by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, 22–38. London: Taylor and Francis, 2018.

Jan Bardsley, “A Maiko April Fool’s Day Story,” April 1, 2021.

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