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Maiko (舞妓) is an apprentice geisha in western Japan, especially Kyoto. Their jobs consist of performing songs, dances, and playing the shamisen (three-stringed Japanese instrument) for visitors during feasts. Maiko are usually aged 15 to 20 years old and become geisha after learning how to dance (a kind of Japanese traditional dance), play the shamisen, and learning Kyō-kotoba (dialect of Kyoto), regardless of their origins.
Maiko originated from women who served green tea and dango (Japanese dumpling made from rice flour) to people who visited the Kitano Tenman-gū or Yasaka Shrine (these are the two of the famous shrines in Kyoto) at teahouses in the temple town about 300 years ago.
At first, women served only green tea and dango, but they gradually started to perform songs and dances for visitors.
A maiko's hairstyle is called nihongami (a Japanese traditional hairstyle from Edo period.) They arrange their hairstyle with their own hair. Maiko put kanzashi (Japanese traditional hair accessories) on their hair with seasonal flowers. The hairstyle changes depending on the years of experience they have.
In the morning, maiko take lessons to polish their performances. At night, they go out to work. They are usually given the opportunity to eat at high-class Japanese-style restaurants or stay in Japanese-style hotels. They perform dances, songs, play the shamisen, and serve visitors with sake. Recently, their jobs have expanded to include visiting nursing institutions or hospitals. Some maiko are also dispatched overseas.
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