Ichigiku—a Rising Star of Kamishichiken

Maiko Ichigiku of Kamishichiken wearing a wisteria kanzashi for May

The Kamishichiken district, the oldest of five hanamachi in Kyoto, seems to be so tranquil nowadays. The area lost its most famous faces and business suffered heavily. I visit Kamishichiken regularly, but this place resembles a ghost town sometimes, especially in winter and after dark. For me, Kamishichiken has a very peaceful and calming atmosphere, though. It’s certainly the best place to completely relax, far far away from the busy streets of Gion or Pontocho. Kamishichiken is ancient, quiet, and mysterious. And it gained new blood last Autumn!

I was happy to see the recent debuts of maiko Naomai, Ichiume, and Ichigiku. All of them seem to be incredibly intelligent and dedicated. I’ve met Naomai and Ichiume before, so I was pleased to join a 2-hour ozashiki with Ichigiku this time.

Seasonal kanzashi: big pastel wisteria flowers
Obidome (obi‘s decorative clip) belonging to the Ichi okiya. Every maiko obidome is made of real jewels and it’s the most expensive part of a maiko’s outfit. Obidome are family treasures kept within the okiya.

I won’t share any written details of this private gathering, but let the photos speak for themselves.

Every maiko has to do her makeup by herself. They use two mirrors to paint the neck in the back. This special shape is called nihonashi (two stripes), but for the formal occassions, they paint three lines (sanbonashi)
Signing a souvenir for a guest
There was a lot of intensive thinking what to write.
The wareshinobu hairstyle, used by junior maiko. It symbolizes innocence and immaturity of an inexperienced maiko.

Ichigiku, prior to her maiko career, came to Kyoto with her parents to do some general sightseeing. They went for a walk to Kamishichiken and saw a poster of the Kitano Odori, held at Kamishichiken Kaburenjo. Ichigiku (it’s not her real name, though) became determined to dance on the same stage one day. She fulfilled her dream this year and took part in her first Kitano Odori.

“Gion Kouta” dance performance
Presenting furisode; long-sleeved kimono worn by young, unmarried ladies
“Painting” lips red in front of a “mirror”
“Harusame” dance, “spring rain”

Ichigiku is one of the youngest maiko in Kyoto. She debuted at the age of 15 last Autumn and just had her 16th birthday this April. Such a sudden debut was possible due to Kamishichiken’s policy of a shorter shikomi period
— the Ichi okiya decided on only 6 months, not the usual 1 year.

Ichigiku loves December kanzashi with maneki boards, dance “Momiji no Hashi”, but first of all she loves eating ramen.

Punching a temple’s bell
“Darari obi”, 7-metre-long sash worn only by maiko in Kyoto
Update, August 2020: Unfortunately, it seems that Ichigiku is now retired.

4 Replies to “Ichigiku—a Rising Star of Kamishichiken”

  1. Beautiful pictures!!

  2. Jane Galvin says: Reply

    Wonderful photography and an informative article. I don’t remember the last time I saw a close up of an obidome. Thank you!

  3. each country has its own beauty.
    unique and different than others
    I can see the beauty of Japanese women with their eccentric makeup style but still elegant

  4. she looks beautiful and shines, Is it difficult to meet Ichijiku?

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