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).
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.
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.
…an artist at work…
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.
“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!”