Maiko (Geisha apprentice), Kyoto, Honshu, Japan.
Maiko girls are Geisha apprentices. They usually start their 5 or 6
year training at the age of 14 or 15. After 6 month, they receive the
title of Maiko. When a Maiko becomes 20 years old, she must decide
whether to quit or to become a geisha. She will become a geisha after an
erigae ceremony, which literally means change of collars.
It is a long and difficult training. Geisha women along with Sumo
fighters might be the last professions representing centuries of
traditions in a country that has seen one of the most spectacular growth
and changes over the last 50 years.
In today's rapidly evolving society, most women are no longer willing to
endure the hardship of such long training and the number of geishas is
decreasing. Geishas remain a strong symbol in Japan, and one of the last
training schools is still in operation in the old capital of Kyoto. In
Kyoto young visitors from all over the country can hire professionals to
help them dress as a Maiko or Geisha. What used to be the dream of so
many little girls is now becoming a tourist attraction or just a good
way to bring home nice photographic memories.