Answers from Takahina
I recently interviewed the maiko Takahina from Gion Kobu. Those of you familiar with the world of geisha and maiko already know that they rarely speak on the record about their professions in any significant detail. The most common explanation I have heard for this reticence is that geiko and maiko have some deep dark secrets they cannot reveal to outsiders or that they are doing things that they should not talk about. Both of these ideas are incorrect from what I have seen.
The real reason that geiko and maiko are reluctant to speak about their lives is one that all of us have experienced at one time or another: peer pressure. Many of the geiko and maiko I have interviewed worry that they might say something that their onesans (more senior geiko), okasans (the women who own and manage the houses where geiko and maiko live) or their teachers might not agree with. Rather than say something that might cause a problem, it is more prudent to say nothing at all.
Over the years, I have learned to get around this problem in several ways and still learn things that I find interesting. For instance, in interviews I have been doing recently, I have been learning more about what life is like for maiko and geiko just before they actually become maiko, a period when they are known as minarai. I didn't focus on this period much at all in Geisha & Maiko of Kyoto, so I'm asking more question about it now so the content of my next books will be different from the previous ones. Also, since I am asking specifically about each maiko or geiko's own experience, they can talk quite freely about the subject. After all, their own experiences are theirs alone, so they don't have to worry about others might think of their answers.
I originally said I would post answers to one or two questions from Takahina, but I will be posting the answers to six questions in total. Three were answered by Takahina herself, and three were answered by the okamisan of an ochaya. I received several interesting questions about things like the takamakura pillow that maiko sleep on and things that maiko miss since they do not attend high school and college as most teenagers do. I did ask these questions, but Takahina's answers were similar to answers from other maiko and geiko I have interviewed. I have already posted those answers in my post "Any Questions for a Maiko?" Please refer to that post for the answers.
Without further ado, here are the questions I asked Takahina and her replies. I will post the okamisan's answers next Sunday, December 18.
Q: What advice would you give a young girl thinking about becoming a maiko?
A: Please think carefully about it and get some advice from the adults who are around you because once you are in this field, you can't easily quit, even if you want to go to high school or college.
Q: How did you get the name Takahina?
A: My geiko sister gave me a part of her name -- Taka -- and my okasan gave me the name Hina.
Q: What is your favorite kanzashi (hair ornament)?
A: Fuji (Wisteria) kanzashi. It is worn in May.
The photo that begins this post was taken in May 2011 and shows Takahina wearing the above mentioned Fuji kanzashi. It happens to be my favorite kanzashi, too.