Former apprentice geisha in Kyoto speaks out about abuse

While Japan is always keen to promote its traditional culture to the world, the truth about it is sometimes complex and not altogether positive.

Geisha are one of the most iconic images associated with Japan, especially Kyoto. But in very simplistic terms, geisha were and remain not so different from modern-day hostesses in that they get paid to entertain patrons who were/are typically male, older, and wealthy.

There is, of course, still a culture of geisha today in places like Kyoto. One ex-trainee geisha (known as a maiko) has caused a stir by sharing some of the more unsavory facts about her former profession.

Kiyoha Kiritaka published a shocking series of tweets on June 26 (tentatively translated here) that have since attracted a huge amount of attention online and from mainstream media.

Kyoto is, she says, “a scary place.”

maiko geisha underage drinking abuse kyoto

maiko geisha underage drinking abuse kyoto

She claims that when she was 16 years old, her customers tried to get her drunk and bathe with her. Customers would reach under her kimono to grope her (since maiko don’t wear underwear). Someone tried to buy her virginity for ¥50 million, of which she would have received nothing.

Kiritaka, who is now in her early twenties, was told that she was useless and would end up a prostitute if she quit being a maiko. Her proprietress dismissed her complaints about customers as “her fault.”

At least in her former hanamachi, maiko live at work and get paid nothing for six years (except for a small allowance for personal expenses). They don’t even have phones because the managers don’t want the maiko to run away.

She says she fears that she will be killed (!) for telling the truth and that the Kyoto government might get the tweets removed. But Kiritaka says she wants to speak out because many maiko attempt suicide and no one says anything, the maiko/geisha world will never change.

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1 Comment

  • Ben June 29, 2022

    Well, an unpaid apprenticeship where teenage girls are trained as hostesses while being secluded from their family is pretty dodgy on its own, without talking about the alcohol and sex.

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