One of my recent hobbies is to scroll through the Instagram feed, discover new artists, entertaining posts, and innovative styles.

That is how I stumbled upon @maiko_artshop

Kawakami Tetsuya (川上哲也) is a Japanese artist that manages the @maiko_artshop page and website, and I was immediately attracted to the art style and exquisite works of art.

The artist’s drawings are featuring maiko (舞妓). Each of his illustrations is so delicate and thoroughly expresses the beauty and femininity of the ladies.

But what is a Maiko?

For those not familiar with the term maiko, it refers to the apprentice of a geiko (the term used in Kyoto)/ geisha (the term used in Tokyo). A literal translation of the Japanese word is “dancing child.”

Maiko are usually younger women training to be geishas. Performance-wise, the differences between maiko and geishas are quite hard to notice.

Both are beautiful, but if you are not that familiar with the arts, it is hard to tell them apart. Geishas tend to be more costly, and there is also a slight difference between geisha and maiko in terms of appearance.


There is also the age, which sometimes can be hard to tell as they wear make-up, and we all know that Japanese people tend to look younger anyway.

Two things that can guide you, though, are:

  • 1. The Kimono: The apprentices have longer sleeves, obi, bolder patterns, and colors compared to Geishas.
  • 2. The Hair: Same as the first point, maiko have more colorful accessories in their hair, and the ornaments are also more detailed.

Kawakami Tetsuya’s artwork

If you read the description on the artist’s Instagram page, you will notice that there is not only Japanese but also an English translation.

His bio leads us to understand why the artist chose this style and what he wants to express to those who view their artwork.

Kawakami Tetsuya hopes that, through his drawings, people in Japan and abroad will get to know more about Japan and the culture of maiko.

Spreading the culture of your country to more people is such a lovely idea.

Besides the beautiful artwork, the idea of wanting to share more information about Japan’s tradition through art gained my admiration, respect and also made me press the follow button.

The artist in his own words

I asked the artist a few questions regarding how it started, and here is what I found out:


My rough translation:
I'd like more foreigners to know about Japanese culture, and even more, to discover the culture of maiko, therefore with those two points in mind, I chose to draw maiko.
It would make me so happy if people who are interested in this kind of thing, including Japan and Kyoto, would discover and look at my art.

The artist uses Japanese-style and digital art to show people the details and patterns of the ornaments, hairstyles, kimonos, and even make-up of the maiko.

Below, you can see two of the different hairstyles: Ofuku (in the first picture) and Wareshinobu (in the second one):

You can see how much detail there is in every picture and how the artist took a lot of time to thoroughly explain (in Japanese and English), the characteristics of each style.


Who is Kawakami Tetsuya?

Kawakami Tetsuya was born in the beautiful Mie Prefecture in 1982, then moved to Tokyo.

Ever since childhood, the artist loved painting and decided that is how he will earn his bread.

After graduating from high school, he starts working part-time, then gets into a design company. Eventually, he gets into another design company, where he learns more about production. After a while, he decides to work independently at only 26 years old. He then founds the design and production company focallengz and has made many accomplishments and signed many contracts ever since. He decided to start creating after going to Gion in Kyoto and being inspired by it.

Kawakami Tetsuya’s drawings are not only a source of information regarding the maiko and Japanese culture, but they also represent a beautiful form of art.


His works remind me of the traditional Japanese drawings and Ukiyo-e. Here are a few of my favorites:

You can find the artist on Instagram. You can also purchase the paintings and find out more information on his Official Website.

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By - cinnamonellie.