Looking at the picture, our first though is “Geisha”, one of the icon images of Japan.
A Maiko is actually an apprentice Geisha or Geiko (as they are called in Kyoto). Their job consists in performing songs, dances, and playing the shamisen (three-stringed Japanese instrument) for visitors at a party. Maiko are usually aged 15 to 20 years old and become Geisha after learning how to dance (a kind of Japanese traditional dance), play the shamisen, and learning Kyō-kotoba (dialect of Kyoto), regardless of their origins.
In the morning, Maiko take lessons to polish their performances. At night, they go out to work. They perform dances, songs, play the shamisen, and serve visitors with sake.
They remain (or try to) somewhat secret. The best way to grasp a glance of them is to wait around a Hanamachi like Gion or Miyagawacho outside their school from where they will appear to quickly disappear in a taxi, or near the entrance of these tea houses where they will spend the evening in private rooms.
Encountering a Maiko has always been something special for me, mainly because of the feeling that we are both living in completely different worlds. Their style and their beauty, as well as their costume, their manners, and everything they represent, make them really special.
Portrait of a Maiko, apprentice Geisha, Kyoto, Japan