Maiko ("dancing child") are apprentices to geisha, whose job it is to entertain (sing, dance and converse) at ozashiki. The term maiko is only used to define apprentice geisha in the Kansai area of Japan. Other areas use the terms oshaku ("one who pours drinks") or hangyoku ("half-jewel").
Maiko are usually from the age of 15 to 21 years; after that - when they are supposed to have mastered their arts well enough - they can become geiko. A maiko’s appearance is that of a child, which explains the elaborate use of red makeup (which gradually is lessened as she grows older) and the shoulder tucks, dangling obi and long sleeves of her kimono.
A maiko’s makeup changes during the five (or less) years of her apprenticeship: when she start, she only paints her bottom lip red, which gives her a baby-like appearance, while at the same time results in making her mouth look smaller - which was thought to be aesthetically pleasing. As a maiko grows older, she may paint both her lips fuller and use black eyeliner.
Junior maiko wear their hair in the wareshinobu style. Senior maiko wear the ofuku hairstyle, though some other styles may be seen worn too - depending on the occasion. In their hair, maiko wear various hair ornaments, which change every month. A very young maiko wears ornaments that are made of many small flowers, whereas an older maiko may wear ornaments that consist of one big flower. These changes in appearance result in the maiko gradually looking more like an adult.
"In my early years as a maiko, I was allowed to wear colorful kimono and hair ornaments," Komomo says. "But as the years go by we are expected to gradually switch to more simple, sedately colored ones."