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What is Yakata? : Yakata Meaning

What is Yakata in Japan

Sunset over the rooftops of historic Gion, Kyoto, Japan. Detail or the traditional Japanese architecture.

What is Yakata?

Yakata meaning in Japanese

In Kyoto there are girls called “Maiko”. Maiko are important part of Kyoto’s history and heritage and they are popular among tourists from overseas as well because of their astonishing hairstyle, makeups and kimonos.

Maiko refers to a girl in the city of Kyoto, the old capital of Japan and their job is to entertain guest (mostly male) at banquets with Japanese traditional music, dance other types of performances.  To put it simply Maiko is an apprentice of geiko (Geisha is called geiko in Kyoto).  These Maiko girls belong to a place called “Yakata” or “Okiya”. Its original meaning is “The house” or “The building”, however, in this context, the English translation of yakata is “maiko house”

What is yakata?  Yakata is a house which hosts both fully fledged geishas and apprentice maiko. On requests, they are sent to banquets from such yakata. Yakata is not only an office but is also the accommodation where live and spend most of the day. In other words, maiko sleeps and have meals at yakata.

Roles of Yakata

As mentioned earlier, not only is yakata is like a production company or an office of entertainers, yakata also serves as a dormitory for apprentice maiko. However, it has also another important role – it is to accept new comers who want to become maiko. These apprentice maiko are often called “shikomi-san”. These young girls, normally aged 15 to 18, belong to a yakata and live there when they start being an apprentice and after some time of training in music and dance, the make their debut as a maiko.  Yakata also has a role of a production company for maiko and geiko, just like performers belong to some production company.

The literal meaning of Shikomi-san is “miss trainee”. Because maiko are regarded as apprentice geiko, shikomi-san is one more stage before becoming even an apprentice.

These shikomi san are very young and they are all minors aged 15 to 18. Therefore, the head (proprietress) of yakata takes care of these girls as their guardian as if they were their mothers. The proprietress are called “Okaasan” by maikos and shikomi-san. Okaasan means “mother”.

“Okasan” teaches maiko and shikomi-san dances and music as well as the etiquette and manners since the leisure district of the old capital has its own unique customs and manners.

Okasan is, not only the mothers to maiko but also they are the director of the company they belong to.

When yakata receive requests from customers both maiko and geiko go to the banquets at tea houses or Japanese style restaurant called ryotei. where customers are waiting, from yakata which they belong.

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