Introduction: The Maiko, Kyoto’s Apprentice Geisha

Chapter scope:  Introduces the popularity of the maiko, Kyoto’s apprentice geisha, in media targeting a national audience in the early 2000s. What meanings did Kyoto’s “quintessential girl” take on?  What kinds of Kyoto tourist experiences ensued?  The chapter introduces representations of the 2000s maiko experience as vocational training, public role, and catalyst to fantasies of Japanese girlhood.  We learn about geisha studies as a field, the modern notion of the shōjo (girl), and concepts of masquerade.

Gathering Impressions through Artwork and Online Sites:

Maiko & Geiko, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Before reading, look at the illustrations in Maiko Masquerade. Which capture your curiosity? How do these illustrations shape your expectations for what the book is about?
  • Search online for “maiko” and “geisha.” What kinds of websites do you encounter?  What impressions do the images give you?

Reading & Discussion Questions for Introduction:

  • What is a maiko?
  • What kinds of Japanese sources inform Maiko Masquerade?
  • What approach does Bardsley take in analyzing these sources?
  • What are the main arguments of the book?
  • How have others approached the study of geisha?
  • What are two common ways of conceptualizing masquerade?
  • What is the contrast between the notions maiko-rashii (like a maiko) and jibun rashii (like oneself).
  • After completing Maiko Masquerade: Does the book fulfill its aims? What did you learn? What are the strengths and weaknesses of Bardsley’s approach? What directions would you recommend for future research in geisha studies?