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Say the word "geisha" and instantly a picture comes to mind. You can see the white makeup, the colorful kimono and the elaborately styled and ornamented hair. The path to becoming a full-fledged geisha requires a huge investment of time to learn the social skills and conventions for which these Japanese entertainers are famous. You may not be interested in undergoing those years of rigorous training, but you can have fun incorporating some of the geisha's beauty and elegance into your own hairstyle.
An Entertaining Tradition
So you know, you’re not modeling yourself after an ancient version of "The Girlfriend Experience." Although the geisha has many of the abilities of the courtesan, geishas are primarily entertainers and performers. Their skills include dancing, playing music, acting, acrobatics and conversation. Modern geishas begin their training in their early teens. Not only do they learn the skills of an entertainer, they also learn the complicated protocols of being a geisha, including makeup, dress and the distinctive forms of hair and hair ornamentation. These young, apprentice geishas, or "maikos," are the ones who wear the ornate hairstyles we associate with geishas.
There’s more to great geisha hair than meets the eye. Although maikos may have wigs for the most elaborate hair styles, for everyday wear most visit a special hairdresser, the "keppatsu-shi." This expert stylist uses wax, hair extensions, string, paper and yak hair to create the elaborate updos. The style will stay in place for six days and the maiko will sleep with a special pillow that helps keep her hair in place. All this preparation isn’t easy on the hair. Many geishas develop a bald spot as a result of their intricate and heavy coiffures.
Make Maiko Magic
Start your simple replica of a traditional maiko style by applying volumizing mousse to the roots of your hair. Clip off three sections of hair in the front and two in the back. Use one of the back sections to make a ponytail midway up the back of your head. Pull the ends of the ponytail up and pin just above the crown of your head. Twist the ends of each side section, pull back loosely and pin near the ponytail ends. Tease the front section, pull it over the pinned strands and tuck the ends under. Tease the remaining back section at the roots and put it into a bun just under the tucked in top piece.
Get Geisha Glamour
The traditional geisha style is less complicated than that of the maiko. In fact, during Japan’s Meiji era, a common geisha hairstyle was one that looked very much like the one we associate with the American Gibson girl of the early 20th century. Comb your hair forward all around your head. Place a rat, or soft form, that you buy or make yourself at the front and back of your head. Check in a mirror to be sure you like the placement. Back comb the hair in front of the rat. Pull your hair up evenly so that it covers the rat and secure it into a bun at the crown of your head. Decorate with flowers for the traditional geisha look.