Former Maiko Reveals Sexual Harassment Received at 16 | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former Maiko Reveals Sexual Harassment Received at 16

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Kiyoha Kiritaka, now 23 years old, told FRIDAY Digital, “I want what I went through to end.”

It was a sudden tweet on June 26.

“I may be erased from this world, but this is the reality of maiko. At the age of 16 years old I was forced to drink so much alcohol, and I was forced to take a mixed bath with my customers. (I escaped as fast as I could.) I would like you to reconsider whether this is really traditional culture.”

This comment by a former maiko calling herself “Kiyoha” was immediately retweeted more than 130,000 times and liked more than 310,000 times. She continued to tweet, and the story gradually became clearer.

Just before graduating from junior high school, she entered an Okiya as a “trainee” and made her debut as a maiko “Ichikoma” in November at the age of 16. She worked as a maiko for the next eight months, where she experienced a variety of sexual and power harassment from both customers and the Okiya under the name of “tradition”

No matter how much she tries to defend it as “cultural,” it is a violation of the Labor Standards Law, and if she is to be believed, the treatment she received at the Okiya is abuse of a minor.

Kiyoha Kiriki made her debut as a “maiko” at the age of 16.

A child who was obsessed with Japanese dance.

The woman who appeared before us, Ms. Kiyoha, was neatly dressed in a kimono. She is now 23 years old. She looks like a child, but she is an independent woman with both a lively expression and a calm aura.

She decided to become a maiko because she wanted to continue her love of Japanese dance and improve her art.

She says, “Ever since I was a child, I never received much praise for anything I did, but I did receive compliments on my Japanese dancing, which I learned from a friend. I am petite, so it was difficult to make my body look big in dance, but in Nihon buyo, I can express my feelings that come from inside my body. I could create my own world through my own interpretation and have the audience empathize with it. I enjoyed it. When I saw my master’s dance for the first time, it looked as if the floor was moving, not that he was moving. It was beautiful. From there, I fell in love with the world of dance.”

Her parents were remarried, and she lived with her older sister, whom she had with her mother’s previous husband. She was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture and lived in Wakayama and other places. He lived in Osaka for the longest time. “After that, my parents divorced because each of them fell in love with someone else. My mother has been married several times since then. It would be premature to assume that she grew up in a complicated family.” Despite the divorce, their family is still close, and they have barbecues with their parents’ second marriages and their children.

“My mother always lived happily ever after. She would do what she wanted to do. I wanted to be that kind of adult. But I was bullied in class in elementary school, so I read self-help books in the second grade to boost my self-esteem (laughs). I also liked romance novels. I may have been quite precocious on the inside.”

She was bullied not only by her friends but also by her homeroom teacher.

In the fourth grade, the teacher had the whole class write down what they disliked about her, and then took a picture of it on the board and handed it to her. The teacher told her, “You should be more like a child.” But she has her own personality. You can’t force her to be like that. Her parents, worried about her, sent her to a different school several times.

“I don’t like going to school much, so I used to go to my mother’s work and read magazines and books,” she said. “The models in the fashion magazines looked radiant. I told her I liked them, and my mother applied for a talent agency.”

She passed the audition, joined the agency, and began appearing as a child in musicals and on stage. It was around this time that she began to enjoy expressing herself.

However, during a job in Tokyo, she was suddenly attacked in a hallway by a member of the entertainment industry she was working for. She was cornered against a wall, kissed, and had his tongue darted in. She was eleven years old when she escaped by taking the fire escape. She reported the attack and her assailant, who she said was a habitual offender, was later arrested.


Although she was shocked, she continued her performing career. Her older sister was active as an underground idol, so she performed as a back-up dancer on stage and became an underground idol herself. She even appeared in a local hero show. However, “even though I took voice training, my singing was not very good, and I was too small to be a good dancer.” She was unable to find a place to express herself.

Seiwa from her days as an underground idol. “I enjoyed singing, but I wanted to express myself more.”

She took the plunge despite her doubts.

She finally found her way to Nihon buyo (traditional Japanese dance). “I thought this is what I wanted to do.” Her mother demanded that she become independent as soon as possible, saying, “After you graduate from junior high school, you will be able to live on your own.” Just then, someone came to her and said, “If you want to become a maiko in Ponto-cho, Kyoto, we will introduce you to someone.”

“I really wanted to go to high school. So I was lost. I was also thinking that I could devote myself to the arts and perform a modernized version of Japanese dance. My mother had encouraged me to pursue this path for my own sake so that I would not have a hard time because I did not fit in well at school, and I had a letter of recommendation to go to Pontocho. My parents and I felt like we couldn’t back out.”

When she was in her third year of junior high school, she tried her hand at “training” as a maiko. I was told that if I worked hard, I would be rewarded. The maiko’s mother was kind, and she felt that it was natural for a maiko to be strict about her art, so she jumped into the world of maiko.

From “apprentice” to debut as a maiko

After about eight months of training, she became an apprentice in October of her 16th year. Once she became an apprentice, she would wear a han-darari obi (sash) and train at a teahouse with other geiko. One month later, they would make their debut as maiko only after receiving permission from the proprietress of the Okiya (teahouse) and the teahouse association.

“At that time, I had a ceremony with the Okiya proprietress, the head of the tea house association, and the lady geiko,” she said. In front of a gold folding screen, we performed the sansankudo ritual, like a wedding ceremony. We are like a family now, and I felt that I could not betray them so easily.”

However, Kiyoha said that as an apprentice she had already had a bad premonition about whether she would be able to make it here.

She is getting ready to go inside the tatami room. She is wearing white paint and Japanese hair. Wearing a costume.
When one becomes a maiko, no contract is signed. She was only told verbally that she would be in apprenticeship for six years and would receive an allowance of 50,000 yen per month. From that amount, she had to cover everything from cosmetics for work to personal effects and everyday clothes.

The hours of operation are from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (sakikuchi) and from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. (after). Even 16-year-olds are expected to drink when they become maiko.

“I once refused because I was 16 years old, but a customer said to me, ‘A maiko should not say such a thing.’ In such cases, neither the geiko nor the adults around her would protect her. I heard that some other Okiya do not allow underage drinking, but I was forced to drink.”

‘I just met her today, but I fell in love with her.’

She also said that most of the customers looked at her sexually as a woman.

“They would hold my hand and say, ‘I just met you today, but I’m falling in love with you,'” she said. “The drunker they got, the more intense the contact became. Many try to insert their hands through the body yatsukuchi (the side part of kimono) and touch their breasts. Maiko are not allowed to touch their breasts because of the high sash, but they still put their hands in. And they stroke around the collarbone. I once had a maiko split the hem of my kimono and put her hand in. They know that I don’t wear underwear when I’m wearing a kimono, so they do that to me.”


Still, she could not defy her customers. Moreover, before such “barbaric” behavior of the customers, she was forced to do sexual things as a standard “game” in the tatami room. It was hard for her, she was only 16 years old.

Why was she forced to play sexual games in the tatami room… A former maiko accused the “darkness of the Hanamachi “? continued on next page

The costumes and ornamental hairpins were “hand-me-downs” from her seniors. The white makeup she used to wear was bought with her own “pocket money.
Once her hair was tied, it remained tied for a week. She only untied her hair once a week and shampooed it.
  • Interview and text by Sanae Kameyama Photography by Yuri Adachi

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