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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Maiko: Internet Recruitment


The onslaught of technology has now reached even into the teahouses of Gion, the storied pleasure quarter of Kyoto where geisha ply their trade in the water world. According to a recent report in the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper, the use of the Internet has helped in increasing the number of apprentice geisha--or maiko--who entered an okiya teahouse this spring.

Like most Japanese businesses, the teahouses in Gion and the other pleasure quarters hire their new employees once a year, in April, and the current number in the city totals 75, the most in a decade. Teenage apprentices enter a teahouse to begin arduous training. This training can take years--it involves lessons in dancing, singing, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, etc.--and only upon completion can young women gain independence from the house to begin their careers.

Since World War Two, however, the number of young women choosing to become a maiko has been decreasing. In the mid-1970s, there were only a total of 25 maiko in the five hanamachi--the geisha districts of Kyoto. That number increased to 78 by 1995, but has since fallen again, stalling at around 53 in 2003.

To counter another decline, local business leaders have formed a foundation to promote the houses and the districts. As part of this, a web site was created explaining how to become a maiko and the process of applying.

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