Rare Historical Photos of Geisha and Maiko Without Kimonos During Meiji Era

A geisha is a professional artist who has been trained in traditional Japanese arts and crafts, including shamisen playing, dancing, and tea ceremony. They belong to official geisha associations.  In contrast, the Maiko are the apprentice geisha who are still training to perfect their cultural and entertainment skills.


Maikos are apprentice geishas in Kyoto and Western Japan. They perform songs, dances and play the shamisen or other traditional Japanese instruments for guests at banquets and parties, known as ozashiki. Maiko typically ranges in age from 17 to 20. During their training as geishas, they learn traditional dance, play shamisen, and sing Kouta. A maiko apprenticeship usually lasts anywhere from a few months to a year or two, though apprentices who are too old to dress as maikos may instead skip the stage of training and become geishas.


A geisha is a female performer, also known as an entertainer, from Japan who is skilled in performing arts, such as dancing, music and singing, and converse and host effectively. Classic hairstyles and Oshiro make-up are characteristic of their unique appearance. A geisha entertains at ozashiki parties, which are often held to entertain wealthy clients. Japan’s Government has classified many geishas as “living national treasures,” the highest artistic award available.

Difference between Geisha and Maiko

Maikos are younger than geisha, wear colorful kimonos with red collars, and are not accustomed to conversing. Geisha are usually older than 50. Maiko is smaller, more youthful, have fewer skills, and wear a different kimono. Maiko is the term used for geisha apprentices who are still in training. For five years, a maiko must live in the geisha lodging house (okiya) with their mother (okami-san).

Below are some beautiful photos from Okinawa Soba that shows what Maikos and Geisha looked like without kimonos in the early 1900s.

#4 A geisha girl models an exotic take on western fashion

#5 A geisha waits between poses as the photographer changes out lenses

#9 Filled with overflowing joy at the prospects of martial bliss

#10 Filled with overflowing joy at the prospects of martial bliss

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