A Girl’s Best Friend

Just a moment please

Just a moment please

When I watched Kiyono at her misedashi walk in late March, (her first day as a maiko) I was most impressed with her ‘support’ person.  Not only was he constantly adjusting her hair implements and fine-tuning her kimono, but he was looking out for her in every way.  He appeared easy-going and gregarious but his eagle-eye missed nothing.  While he looked after Kiyono, he even had concern for the crowd of photographers.  He made sure none of us got run down by the ever-present zooming taxis as we weren’t taking enough notice of traffic conditions ourselves (being fully engaged in photographing Kiyono).

The Otokoshi checks his electronic diary.

Who do we call on next?

His title is ‘Otokoshi’ which roughly means dresser.  (A maiko’s ‘obi’ – or sash – that you see tied around her kimono is 7.5 metres long and heavy hence takes a man to tie it.)  He is  much more than a dresser though.  It seems to me that he is the ultimate professional in smoothing the path for his important charge.

The two of them shared many jokes.

The two of them shared many jokes.

Imagine how nervous you would be if you were a teenager and you were about to face the world in a brand new public role.  You’d want this guy on your team.  On this day, the walk around the neighbourhood took around one and a half hours.   I was exhausted long before it was over and I had normal footwear on and wasn’t being scrutinized and photographed by everyone in town (or if I was, I wasn’t aware of it)!   They were going into all the establishments connected with maiko/geiko business to pay their respects to important people within and to ask for their benevolent support.

Your hair needs fixing AGAIN.

Your hair needs fixing AGAIN.

…an artist at work…

readjusting the adjustments

readjusting the adjustments

By the way, have you noticed that Kiyono’s top lip is not painted red?  This is because she is the most junior of maiko at the moment; still a teenager.  She is not expected to be sophisticated or worldly in any way.  She is young with everything to learn from those more senior than her – ie everyone!  Both lips will not be red until she gains more experience.

I am no specialist in otokoshi.  In fact I had to ask my on-line friends, who know way more than I do, what his official title is.  (I was just calling him ‘dresser’.)  If you want to learn about all the things an otokoshi does, I suggest you google the word.  There is plenty written on the subject.  My aim is to share my admiration for this particular man who has impressed me so much each time I have witnessed him in action.

this needs fixing

this needs fixing

“Caring and kind Otokoshi-san, your skillful way with people has not gone unnoticed.  You set an example to us all.  I am sorry I can’t address you by your real name but consider me an ardent fan!”

Goodbye and thank you for coming!

Goodbye and thank you for coming!

Related page:  Subject 2: Geisha

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About juliepodstolski

I am a realist artist who works in coloured pencils.
Image | This entry was posted in geisha, Japan, photography, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A Girl’s Best Friend

  1. moushifj says:

    Wow! What lovely pictures and a wonderful story! Congratulations to Kiyono on her Mesidashi debut! They almost look like friends ^^ Which is very good considering they will be working together quite a bit throughout her career, though after this they probably won’t be seen walking through the streets together any more. Personally my favorite Maiko outfit throughout her career is the one worn during her mesidashi (the kimono, makeup, and hair ornaments are so gorgeous together)

    • If we are patient, moushifj, we will see them together again in a few years when Kiyono has her erikae.

      • moushifj says:

        Aww, that would be sweet if she makes it ^^ I know not all girls get past being Maiko to become Geisha (or Geiko) But she looks very very happy and I wish her all the luck and success in the world ^^ Do you know what Okiya she comes from and who her onee-san is? It would be very interesting to watch her career blossom ^^

      • Fukushima, moushifj. Who is her onee-san? I don’t know. Somebody must know – please tell us if you do.

  2. This otokoshi always seems like an awesome guy whenever we see him in photographs. The girls always look so calm and happy during their walks as he tends to crack a lot of jokes. I hope he stays around for a long time as otokoshi are becoming an endangered species.

  3. Karen Kain says:

    Much enjoyed your glimpse into another world!

    Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2013 01:41:32 +0000 To: zengastudios@hotmail.com

  4. Mousy says:

    Your otokoshi appreciation post is great, they surely deserve recognition. At first I thought their job was just dressing the maiko and geiko, but then I learnt how important their role is! I think he is the son of an older otokoshi in Gion Kobu. How nice of him to follow his father’s footsteps!

  5. Seatoun Knoll says:

    Amazing photos and story to go with the pictures. What a great juxtaposition in the photo with the photographers – a world inside a world – swamped by the focus of one on the other.

  6. Merilyn Elson says:

    Wow – it looks so surreal.

  7. Malcolm says:

    Hi Julie, thanks for the images, you are introducing me to a whole new world of human cultural experience and your gentle commentary is so expressive of your fascination and appreciation of what is happening


  8. Robyn Varpins says:

    I really like what that dear man is wearing….subtle and sculptural….mmmm…and a sweet face

  9. stefan2009 says:

    Hello Julie ! 😀

    Thanks a lot for these great photos !
    To answer to moushifj Kiyono’s onesan is Ayano. She is the first maiko of Fukushima to have an onesan (Ayano, Kotono and Fumino made their debuts without one which is quite unusual in Gion Kobu).
    And if you want to learn more about otokoshi’s role I advise you to read the article published by John Foster : http://johnpaulfoster.com/blog/2012/10/an-otokoshi-of-gion-kobu-not-a-kimono-dresser/

    See you later 🙂

  10. Enjoyed reading again about the dresser!!! And how interesting about the top lip! AGAIN most enjoyable post! Keep them coming! x

  11. Cliff says:

    This otokoshi left a deep impression to me too…. as what I witness from his interaction with the ladies during Katsuhina’s misedashi & Makinos erikae.
    definitely a fun chap to hangout with!

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