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On average, Tokyo apprentices (who typically begin at 18) are slightly older than their Kyoto counterparts (who usually start at 15).
In her book Geisha, a Life, Mineko Iwasaki said: "I lived in the karyukai during the 1960s and 1970s, a time when Japan was undergoing the radical transformation from a post-feudal to a modern society.
In 1944, the geisha world, including the teahouses, bars and geisha houses, was forced to close, and all employees were put to work in factories. The few women who returned to the geisha areas decided to reject Western influence and revert to traditional ways of entertainment and life.
"The image of the geisha was formed during Japan's feudal past, and this is now the image they must keep in order to remain geisha." After Japan lost the war, geisha dispersed and the profession was in shambles.
Either way, however, usually a year's training is involved before debuting either as a maiko or as a geisha.
A woman above 21 is considered too old to be a maiko and becomes a full geisha upon her initiation into the geisha community.