Kiyo and Sumire are childhood friends who move from their hometown in Aomori to Kyoto to fulfil their promises of becoming maiko together. However, while Sumire has aptitude as a maiko, Kiyo is a less able and fails to make the cut. Although she prepares to head home, the maiko‘s head chef unexpectedly becomes ill, and one of the senior maiko, Tsurukoma, burns dinner. When Kiyo reveals her own experience in cooking, the house mother allows Kiyo to stay. Thus, Kiyo begins to cook for and look after the maiko house, who come to greatly enjoy her cooking, which has specialised modifications to accommodate the maiko. As the year passes, Kiyo and Sumire settle into their roles: Sumire advances quickly as a maiko, taking on the name Momohana, while the other maiko come to look forwards to Kiyio’s cooking after a hard day’s work. This is Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san (literally “The Maiko House’s Cook”, alternatively, Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House), a manga that began running in Weekly Shōnen Sunday and whose animated adaptation began running last year. Unlike most anime, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san‘s episodes aired monthly rather than weekly, and the series is distinct in that it has no story in the traditional sense; the events in Kiyo and Sumire’s lives aren’t impacted by a conflict leading to rising action, a climax of sorts resulting in a dénouement and concluding in some manner. Instead, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san is part cooking show, part glimpse into the world of being a maiko: episodes are broken up into three chapters, each with a segment where events in a maiko‘s life inspire Kiyo to create something suitable, followed up with a Daily Dish presentation where Kiyo sits down with Sumire and Tsurukoma to review how to prepare or go over trivia a featured dish for that chapter.
Through its manner of presentation, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san proves an immensely relaxing series that acts as an animated travel show with two distinct facets to its presentation. On its Travel Channel side, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san provides insight into maiko and nuances in the world. Learning that maiko need to sleep on a special pillow known as a takamakura (a wooden block designed to allow maiko to keep their hair in a certain style), and seeing Sumire suffer through it on her first night, was a particular eye-opener; it shows the devotion that maiko have towards their craft, and Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san portrays the sort of activities that maiko do. They train in arts like dancing, singing and playing traditional instruments by day and entertain guests at teahouses and restaurants by night. Maiko are prohibited from entering certain establishments like convenience stores while in their outfit, and their obi indicates their rank. It becomes quite plain that maiko are highly talented and live a very regimented lifestyle – even their diet is specially modified to accommodate them. To prevent their lipstick from smearing, maiko can only take bite-sized meals, and they cannot eat particularly pungent foods like garlic, either. Fortunately, with live-in cooks like Kiyo on hand, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san shows that the maiko are also able to come home to a solid meal each and every day. Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san presents food as being a powerful moral booster, bringing life into tired maiko. In addition, subtleties about food preparation is also covered in Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san; like a Food Network programme, Kiyo walks the other maiko and viewers alike through tricks she’s picked up while cooking at home and for the maiko, while Sumire offers trivia and novel details about a dish’s history, preparation style or design. On occasion, Tsurukoma joins the pair to express her love of the food they regularly enjoy. Both sides of Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san come together to inform and entertain, showing how despite their tricky lifestyle, maiko are also looked after well.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Being a true slice-of-life anime focused on maiko and cooking, the act of preparing and enjoying food lies at the forefront of Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san. Here, Kiyo has prepared omurice and tonkatsu for the maiko. I’ve always had a fondness for katsu, and whilst in Osaka a few years ago, I ended up ordering an omurice with curry katsu: this dish mixed in all of the flavours I wanted to try into one entity, giving me best of three worlds. Since then, I’ve been longing to have a good katsu, and last August, I had the chance to do so with a friend who’d been visiting.
- While Napoleon and Frederick The Great have both stated that an army marches on its stomach, the truth is that the whole of humanity marches on its stomach: a good meal does wonders for morale. When the previous live-in cook becomes unable to continue, the other maiko attempt to cook but butcher things completely. Tsurukoma here ends up burning things, but fortunately, Kiyo is on hand to take over: while she isn’t competent as a maiko, she excels in housework and cooking, to the extent where, to allow the previous live-in cook to retire and recover, Kiyo takes over her position full time.
- Maiko are essentially geiko in training; Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san goes through the differences that separate the apprentices and fully-fledged performers, and the key difference, besides familiarity with their art, geiko use a wig, whereas maiko‘s hair is elaborately styled. Kyoto offers visitors to kit themselves out as a maiko would, and back when I was visiting the Kinkaku-ji five years earlier, we saw some people who appeared to be maiko. However, I overheard said “maiko” speaking Mandarin, indicating they were probably tourists. There are ways of determining if a maiko or geiko is real, and the simplest test is when one spots them: real maiko and geiko are out and about by evening, when they entertain guests.
- Kiyo’s best friend, Sumire, proves to be highly competent and picks up her training very quickly, earning her the praise and attention of both the house mother and her fellow maiko. Outside of her duties, Sumire acts as any high school girl might, and one evening, after Kiyo asks the other maiko their preferences for dinner, Sumire develops a longing for fried chicken. She’s able to keep her game together while entertaining guests, but has to actively stop herself from entering a convenience store. Luckily for Sumire, Kiyo’s got some freshly-made fried chicken for her. Japanese fried chicken (karaage) is made with potato starch rather than flour, yielding a lighter flavour compared to the heavier taste of North American style fried chicken.
- It turns out that all maiko are involved with housework as a part of their training, and this is the area Kiyo particularly excels at: with Kiyo, her willingness to stay in Kyoto despite not being cut out for maiko training allows her to experience things from a different perspective. Despite not being able to become maiko together per their original promise (after seeing maiko perform in their home town, both Sumire and Kiyo are seized with a desire to become maiko themselves), Kiyo’s decision to stick around as the live-in cook allows her to see and do things that would’ve otherwise been off the table, speaking to the importance of maintaining an open mind and accepting opportunity as it presents itself.
- When I first heard of Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san, I initially assumed it would be set in the Edo Period or Meiji Restoration. However, these misconceptions were swiftly shot down after spotting modern vehicles, and later, the house mother is shown using what looks like an Asus Zen AiO: I recognise the design because I’d gotten one for my parents back during the winter break. Their requirements were straightforward: the computer needed to be an all-in-one capable of word and spreadsheet processing, web browsing (banking, email and watching YouTube videos) and doing the taxes.
- When Kiyo is granted an evening off as the other maiko attend a performance and dinner, she is excited beyond all words: she’s seen sashaying around for the rest of the day, and at night, becomes to excited to sleep: she kicks about in a most adorable manner in anticipation. While the others speculate Kiyo’s going on a date, the truth is a little more mundane: she plans to visit the former live-in cook and make curry with her. According to the narration, maiko are forbidden from eating curry because it would remind them of home and distract them from their duties. I’m not too sure if this holds true in reality, but does create an excuse for Kiyo to head off and enjoy a taste of home.
- My family has their own recipe for Japanese style curry: in addition to the core potatoes, carrots and onions, I add either chicken wings or braised beef to create a full-fledged meal (with a side of baby bok choy to round things out). This is a dish I have fairly often, but it never gets old no matter how many times I enjoy it. I ran a poll on Twitter a ways back to see what the distribution was for folks who enjoy this sort of curry, and found that 30 percent of responses had curry some sort at least once a month, with the remaining 70 percent of respondents indicating they rarely have Japanese style curry. I will note that curry is delicious, and the old anime portrayal of leftover curry tasting especially good does hold true.
- The moment that highlighted Kiyo’s personality at her best is found in a flashback – back home in Aomori prior to her and Sumire going over to Kyoto, Sumire and Kenta end up getting into a shovelling contest and promptly wear themselves out. On the other hand, Kiyo steadily shovels without tiring. Simple details like these speak volumes to how Kiyo is able to do things at a methodical pace: looking after the maiko house is doubtlessly a marathon rather than a sprint, and Kiyo has the right temperament for the job.
- Every episode of Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san is broken up into three chapters, and each chapter has two parts. The second part is titled “Sumire and Kiyo’s Dish of the Day” and gives the pair a chance to explore the dishes that figured in the first part. Tsurukoma ends up joining the segments over time: typically, Kiyo walks viewers through how things are made and things to be mindful of, while Sumire consults a book to find trivia about a dish. On the other hand, Tsurukoma provides some gentle comic relief: her knowledge can be a little spotty, but she genuinely loves the food being made and is always game to try something.
- Today is the Chinese New Year, and this year, it’s the Year of the Tiger. A quick glance at my horoscope for the upcoming year finds the usual – “do what’s right, and things will work out”. Beyond this, the Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate with family, and with the current circumstances, this year’s festivities are a bit quieter: yesterday, I enjoyed Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner with the family (char siu and siu yuk, whole roast chicken, shiitake mushrooms on a bed of lettuce and pan-seared prawns with scallops). Chinese New Year is one of my favourite holidays of the year; while offering no time off, it represents a nice break during the gloomiest months.
- During her time back home in Aomori, Kiyo spends time with her grandmother, Sumire and Kenta. Besides enjoying home cooking, Kiyo also hits the shrine for a New Year’s visit, but she draws “terrible luck”, leading her to despair (Kenta and Sumire both draw “fantastic luck”). In the end, both Kenta and Sumire tie their fortunes into the tree, signifying how their luck will average out with hers: despite their time apart, the three’s friendship endures.
- Upon returning to Kyoto, the maiko still have a day off and immediately hit the local fast food joint for some burgers: because maiko usually are restricted from things one would count as ordinary, going out for a fast food burger is a rare treat. My favourite fast food burger is from A&W – they use grass-fed beef in their patties, and the old standby, the Teen Burger, is a classic that hits all the right notes. Coupled with the fact that A&W has thick-cut fries made from Russet Potatoes, and root beers made from cane sugar, their combo is a grand slam. I don’t think there are any A&Ws in Japan, so the maiko here are probably digging into a generic burger, or perhaps burgers from McDonald’s. While McDonald’s smaller burgers, like the Quarter Pounder, are a bit underwhelming, their iconic Big Mac and Angus burgers are both hefty and satisfying.
- Restaurant burgers count on cooking the patties at very high temperatures to allow for the Maillard Reaction to occur, creating acrylamide, a compound which imparts highly flavourful, browned crust on the patty. However, acrylamide is a carginogenic agent in excess. On the other hand, fast food burgers usually have a much higher sodium content (and it is well-established that sodium causes cardiovascular problems). In moderation, both are more than safe to eat: the occasional treat doesn’t hurt, and folks looking for healthier burgers will find that home made, burgers can still taste very good (using a higher-fat meat, seasoning while the burger is cooking and choosing the right sauce).
- While some of the recipes in Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san are distinctly Japanese, the series also covers dishes like the croque madame, a ham and cheese sandwhich covered with a cheese sauce and fried egg. For me, lunches typically consist of cold cut sandwiches, and I’ve found that even just varying the sauce can completely change a sandwich’s character. Since I’ve been working from home more, I foresee a chance to try out some fancier recipes on days where I’m not as busy.
- While Tsurukoma isn’t seen as often as Kiyo and Sumire throughout Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san, I came to greatly enjoy the energy she brought to the table. Here, she reminisces about Kiyo’s nabe, which was made with top-grade wagyu beef and ends up warming up all of the maiko to their heart’s content after the heat went out that day. It turns out that Tsurukoma is also fond of doughnuts: they share a story about how the doughnut got its iconic hole (which is consistent with the story I grew up hearing), but Tsurukoma declares her love of doughnuts matches that of an America. In reality, Canadians eat the most doughnuts per capita of anyone in the world and there’s the most number of doughnut shops per person here, courtesy of all the Tim Hortons floating around, so Tsurukoma would do well to say that her love of doughnuts matches that of a Canadian (in fact, Japan is second to Canada in terms of doughnuts eaten).
- When the house mother falls ill, the assistant remarks to Kiyo that here in Kyoto, the remedy isn’t fish-and-ginger congee (a family tradition) or chicken noodle soup (the common Western equivalent), but Kyoto-style udon. The house mother initially fears that Kiyo will whip up the darker Aomori-style udon, although Kiyo is determined to learn the Kyoto-style. With help from local grocers, Kiyo learns of a way to create a clear broth with lighter soy sauce topped with fried tofu. The final product bears the love from local grocers and Kiyo’s own attention to detail, bringing tears to the house mother’s eyes (and in her typical stoic manner, she passes it off as soup getting into her eyes.
- During preparations for the Setsubun Festivals, the maiko begin losing focus. Out of options, Sumire begs Kiyo to help out – Kiyo ends up whipping up a batch of cheese-covered hot dogs for everyone, and with renewed food energy, the girls are able to finish their task. Kiyo’s recipe is reminiscent of the kind of hot dogs that the specialty bakeries in Chinatown would sell: these ‘dogs use a sweet bun dough that incorporates a bit of condensed milk and egg, creating a gently sweet flavour and distinct yellow colouration that ends up being chewier and softer than Western bread. I have a particular fondness for this kind of bread, which tastes phenomenal even with just a dash of butter.
- Kiyo’s recipe ends up being a scaled down version of the pizza ‘dog I cook: my all-pizza ‘dog calls for grilled honey garlic pork sausage, string cheese, shredded mozzarella and cheddar, pizza sauce, and if one were feeling particularly adventurous, pepperoni slices. Once the sausages are grilled to perfection, I cut a slit in them, slide the string cheese in, and place it onto the hot dog. From here, I add tomato sauce, sprinkle on shredded cheese and the pepperoni slices, then bake at 285ºF (140ºC) for a quarter hour. The end result is delicious, a pleasant spin on the hot dog. Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san supposes that the hot dog takes its name from the sausage resembling Dachshund dogs, but the actual name is contested, and it is supposed that the term has origins from the 1800s, stemming from claims that sausages of the time contained dog meat.
- Setsubun is a spring festival celebrated to dispel misfortune from the previous year, and mamemaki is a common practise, in which soybeans are thrown out the door or at someone in a devil costume. In the Tohoku region, peanuts are substituted for soy beans, and in Kyoto, maiko perform a dance before throwing packet of soybeans into the audience. When Kiyo introduces her custom of mamemaki using peanuts, the maiko get into a peanut-throwing fight, anger the house mother and consider throwing peanuts at her before coming to their senses, leaving Kiyo to clean up the mess. Elegant and refined the maiko are, they’re still ordinary girls at the end of the day, as such moments serve to remind viewers.
- One aspect of Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san that is under-appreciated is the music – the soundtrack is composed by Go Sakabe and consists of a combination of traditional instruments, as well as piano, which serves to bring out the aesthetic within the series. However, at the time of writing, I’m not sure if the soundtrack will even be released. There’s no news of a date, and this leads me to wonder if the series will even get a BD release (if so, the music might accompany it).
- Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san‘s Kyoto is gently portrayed, using a style reminiscent of watercolours. While nowhere nearly as vivid as how Kyoto Animation presents their home town, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san nonetheless conveys a very lovely and relaxing sense about the city; use of visuals such as these do much to remind viewers of the series’ casual and slow pace. This is, of course, a deliberate choice: elsewhere, a much better-known blog than my own immediately criticised the series for being a “tonal monotony” owing to its “glacial” pacing. I’ve never been a fan of folks who apply a single set of expectations to all the anime they watch: different genres will employ different approaches in how they convey events, and not every anime will necessarily have a story piece to things.
- Much as how one cannot reasonably expect something like Man v. Food or Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to have a story, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san is more of a cooking show mixed in with elements from a documentary about maiko. In this way, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san is probably more similar to Little Forest – the characters’ learnings and discoveries are much more slowly paced and subtle, and they aren’t the central focus. As it stands, while I find merit in people who explain why a given work isn’t suitable for them, I do not take stock in individuals who make broad, sweeping generalisations about a genre as though it were indisputable fact.
- Overall, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san‘s focus isn’t necessarily portraying how Kiyo and Sumire grow as individuals, but rather, to provide a combination of insight into what maiko‘s lives are like, as well as how home-cooked meals do much to lift one’s spirits. The approach is general enough so that were one to do a show about cooking on board something like a cruise ship, there’d probably be enough to portray over a one-cour series. Of course, there are quieter moments at the maiko house, too, and during the hours of the day when Kiyo isn’t cooking, cleaning or shopping for ingredients, she’s looking around for recipes to make.
- During one conversation, Tsurukoma mentions a list of her favourite foods, all of which are brown. Kiyo mentions that vegetables, besides adding nutrition, can bring much colour to a dish. It is accepted that a colourful dish is more likely to be healthy because different colours represent different nutrients, and in practise, colourful dishes actually encourage the uptake of nutritional variety. A 2018 paper by Laura M. König and Britta Renner found that more colourful dishes encouraged people to eat them, translating to a healthier diet.
- Because maiko cannot eat any strong-tasting foods like garlic, Kiyo cooks gyoza without garlic and in a form factor that maiko can easily eat. However, since Sumire’s got the day off, Kiyo prepares some gyoza for her: the intense flavours blows her away, leading to some envy from Tsurukoma. Garlic imparts a very potent flavour on food, although I’m on the fence about its use because it leaves a powerful aftertaste that can last for a half-day. Unsurprisingly, cooking garlic for longer, or at higher temperatures, breaks down the responsible compounds without destroying the flavour. This would explain how Rin and Nadeshiko were able to eat whole garlic cloves without worrying about the consequences during their Izu camping trip in Yuru Camp△.
- The finale of Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san has Sumire on a rare day off with Kiyo, allowing the pair to hang out as ordinary high school girls might; they visit an arcade, where Sumire wins a claw machine game, and then get triple scoops of ice cream to enjoy. It’s a suitable conclusion to the animated adaptation; the manga is still ongoing, and like Yuru Camp△, a live-action drama is in the works. Nine episodes are planned, and the series will be available on Netflix: it will be titled Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House.
- The prospect of seeing a live-action Kiyo and Sumire will be interesting; Yuru Camp△’s live-action adaptation was generally successful in its portrayal of the series, and I was particularly impressed with how they’d brought everyone to life. Last year, I spent a great deal of time catching up on Netflix’s The Series Unfortunate Events, as well as The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, and Hawkeye, all of which were fantastic in their own right. This year, with news of the live-action adaptation of Halo, as well as The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, there appears to be no shortage of shows to look forward to.
- On the whole, I found Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san to be a highly enjoyable series that stands on its own merits: the series earns an A grade (4.0 of 4.0) for being able to bring even the most mundane aspects of cooking and a maiko‘s everyday routine to life, weaving everything together with food. I can imagine that for folks who were actively keeping up with Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san, this anime would’ve become an old friend one could look forwards to on a monthly basis. For me, I watched the episodes all at once, and while the series’ premise prima facie would suggest one could grow tired of things quickly, no such thing occurred.
- Between the likeable characters, interesting tidbits about maiko and a genuine, sincere presentation of the nuances of cooking, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san is a worthwhile journey for folks who like cooking shows or are seeking slice-of-life series in its purest form. The absence of an overarching narrative and objective means that viewers get glimpses into life at the maiko house in a true slice-of-life manner, and in this way, one can make the case that anime like these are as close as one can get to a true slice-of-life series. I am going to be sad to see this one go, but as previously noted, there is a live-action adaptation coming out later this year on Netflix, and it’ll be exciting to see how this compares to the anime.
Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san‘s infinitely peaceful tone makes the series an absolute joy to watch; it combines the aesthetic of Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni with the informative aspects from something like Rick Steves’ Europe and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to create a show that is entertaining, relaxing and instructive. However, it is worth mentioning that Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san is not an anime in a traditional sense. Challenges do face the characters from time to time, and messages of resilience and adaptiveness do pop up. Sumire’s resolve in becoming the best maiko she can be by practising frequently, and Kiyo ends up taking the opportunity to stay in Kyoto despite lacking the traits of a maiko by becoming their live-in cook, allowing her to experience something that otherwise wouldn’t be possible – seeing the daily lives of maiko outside of their duties. Viewers looking for a definitive story will not find it in Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san, but on the other hand, anyone seeking a presentation of Japanese food, both contemporary and traditional, in a relevant setting, will be pleased with what Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san presents. I have heard that Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san is rendered entirely using computer graphics rather than traditional hand-drawn cells, and that initially, people were flat-out refusing to watch this series on the basis that the trailer had looked terrible. Having now seen Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san in full, I would say that, at least here, these fears are unfounded. Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san looks far better than its trailer did, being akin to how DOOM Eternal and Halo Infinite both delivered a product fr surpassing what they’d shown at their respective E3 demos. While this series is no Makoto Shinkai or Kyoto Animation production, the character design, artwork and animation are more than serviceable – the characters convey the deliciousness of the food they’re eating, and for a cooking anime, this means the visuals have succeeded in their function. While the series’ unusual schedule meant that folks who were keeping up with each new episode would’ve been left with a long wait, I myself ended up picking Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san up a few weeks ago, and blitzed through the series at a very high rate: each episode was cathartic and enlightening, so it quickly became a series I came to enjoy. Having said this, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san isn’t going to be for everyone, and it should be evident that slice-of-life and/or cooking fans will get the most out of Kiyo and Sumire’s time in Kyoto.
Should that Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san aired on NHK-E (educational television) mean that it was vetted to be accurate concerning its portrayal of the Maiko?
While not as enthusiastic as the author, I watched all 12 episodes and found them enjoyable.
“This would explain how Rin and Nadeshiko were able to eat whole garlic cloves without worrying about the consequences during their Izu camping trip in Yuru Camp△.”
This would affect their ability to ward off vampires, but Rin could likely deal with them with her camping machete anyhow. Would have been funny to have them chase the other girls around with garlic breath (Sensei would have been too drunk to notice). 😉
I tend to greatly enjoy shows of this sort, hence my outcomes for Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san. Anime like these tend to make an honest effort towards ensuring everything is authentic and true to life, so I have an easy time accepting that what we see here about the maiko are realistic 🙂
I recommended it to my youngest niece (13), who loves anime and has tried her hand at cooking Japanese food before.
I hope she found this one enjoyable! Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san also does some foods that aren’t Japanese, and it was through this show I learnt of the croque madam sandwich, which looks like a fantastic mid-day meal to break up those long debugging sessions.
I still need to watch the last few episodes — given the release schedule, I’ve been checking in only every few months. It is a very lovely show. For those who might be interested, my favorite active director — Hirokazu Kore’eda — is supposed to be making a live-action adaptation for Netflix. Given that I’ve liked all his (many) movies up to this point (and his one quirky TV series) — I look forward for this adaptation very much as well.
I’m definitely keeping an eye on the live-action adaptation, having greatly enjoyed Yuru Camp△‘s live action drama during its airing. The entirety of Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san is out now, and since we got some time before the live-action, there is no better time than now to polish off this anime 😉
Kore’eda’s Makanai arrived on Netflix finally — and my wife and I promptly watched it. It gets a bit further into the story than the anime — and it seems to put more focus on character interactions and less on details about cooking the various sorts of meals. Of course, cooking is still a key aspect, given that becomes Kiyo’s job. A very satisfactory show, if not quite as distinctive as Kore’eda’s movie work. The depiction of Kyoto is wonderful. And the quality of the acting is very high. Dialog also seems far more “natural”. A lovely way to virtually visit Japan while waiting to get back there “for real”.