Maiko (Geisha apprentice), Kyoto, Honshu, Japan.
Maiko girls are Geisha apprentices. They usually start their 5 or 6 year training at the age of 14 or 15. After 6 month, they receive the title of Maiko. They learn traditional skills such as Japanese ancient dance, singing, playing a three-string instrument called shamisen, the ikebana flower arrangement, the art of wearing a kimono, the ocha tea ceremony, and calligraphy. They also learn social skills such as proper conversation, and the art to serve food and alcohol. When a Maiko becomes 20 years old, she must decide whether to quit or to become a geisha. She will become a geisha after an erigae ceremony, which literally means change of collars.
It is a long and difficult training. Geishas aspire to a style called iki, in which their goal in life is to reach perfection in their chosen skill, whether it is music, singing or dancing and become the object of art themselves. Geisha women along with Sumo fighters might be the last professions representing centuries of traditions in a country that has seen one of the most spectacular growth and changes over the last 50 years.