Photo/IllutrationMakoto, right, shows off the Nagoya exclusive dance of “Kin no Shachihoko” as she makes her debut as a “maiko” apprentice geisha in Nagoya’s Higashi Ward on the evening of Oct. 12. (Takashi Takizawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NAGOYA--Dressed in a kimono called “ohikizuri,” whose bottom is made so long that it drags on the floor, an 18-year-old girl from Tokyo is living her dream as a "maiko" apprentice geisha here.

Under the name Makoto, Yuri Akaishi became the first maiko in three years to debut as a member of the Nagoya Geigi Association (Meigiren).

“I want to be a maiko who will be adored by patrons and restaurants (where geisha entertain guests),” she said.

Makoto was called up to “ozashiki” (party hall) for the first time at Kamome, a long-established “ryotei” restaurant in the city’s Higashi Ward, on the evening of Oct. 11.

She showed off a dance of “Kin no Shachihoko” by putting her face on the floor and doing a headstand.

"Shachihoko" is a mystical fish-shaped ornament, with a pair of the gold adornments placed at the top of Nagoya Castle.

Makoto hails from Koganei in western Tokyo. Makoto aspired to become a maiko after she saw traditional maiko dances in Kyoto during a school trip when she was a ninth-grader.

She graduated from a Tokyo metropolitan government-run senior high school this past spring. Makoto had to give up her plans to go to Kyoto to pursue a career as a maiko because apprentices must start their training in the ancient capital just before or after they graduate from junior high school.

She narrowed her options to Tokyo, Niigata and Nagoya.

When she visited Nagoya for the first time, she felt comfortable with the apprenticeship program and decided to relocate to the city. Her parents supported their daughter’s decision.

With the help of an experienced geisha who provided support on a one-to-one basis for half a year, Makoto has worked hard to practice her skills in being courteous, Japanese dance, music and other traditions.

“I feel the warmth of the people in Nagoya, but it’s hotter and more humid in summer than in Tokyo, and I was exhausted by the summer heat,” she said.

Mameka, who served as an instructor for Makoto, has high hopes for her.

“She is honest and dedicated. She also has a unique, gentle vibe. I hope she gradually learns conversational skills in ozashiki, not to mention her entertainment skills,” Mameka said.

About 200 geisha had been attached to Meigiren in the past, but currently there are only 19 members including Makoto. Of these, three are maiko.