Meet the mom, a former geisha, who just hit 1 million subscribers on YouTube (2024)

Moe, 30, is a former geisha turned mom and YouTuber. She's well aware of how drastic her career change may look as no two professions appear to be more different.

In Japan, geishas are enigmas with utterly private lives. They study traditional Japanese performing arts and use that knowledge to entertain guests through their own performances at parties. Gaining entry into one of those parties is a guarded secret and unlikely for the common passerby.

On the other hand, YouTubers are, for the most part, open books with much of their lives laid bare for all to see. They vlog about their daily lives, share intimate details and show off their home spaces.

But for Moe, known as "Kimono Mom" on YouTube, both of her chosen professions are rooted in the same thing: a love of culture and a desire to preserve it.

Meet the mom, a former geisha, who just hit 1 million subscribers on YouTube (1)

The path to becoming a geisha

It all started when Moe was 15 years old and living in Kyoto.

"When I was in my first year of high school, we had homework to find 10 different unique jobs," she told "Good Morning America." "My grandfather was teaching calligraphy at Gion, where maiko and geiko were living. ... At that time, I realized that I lived in Kyoto but didn't know much about maiko and geiko, and I didn't even know how Japanese traditions were preserved, so I interviewed them."

Moe, whose last name is being withheld for privacy reasons, said she was impressed by how hard maikos (apprentice geishas) and geikos (another word for geisha) worked to preserve Japanese culture.

"I wanted to be like that," she said.

MORE: Fare from afar: Chefs share authentic Japanese cuisine to transport your taste buds

Moe left school at age 15 and moved into an okiya, or geisha house, where she began an apprenticeship. Her days were full, she said, with classes from 9 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m., and then work from 5 p.m. until as late as 1 a.m.

"When you go to a geisha party, there are guests waiting," Moe said. "I'd bring food, drinks and show them Japanese dance."

Moe completed her apprenticeship and became a full geisha at age 20, and said that while the work was demanding, she loved it.

"I liked to be on stage," she said of her favorite part of being a geisha. "I've always liked to stand out since when I was little."

Marriage brought change and culture shock

Traditionally, geishas aren't allowed to marry. If they want to do so, they have to retire from the profession. So when Moe married her first husband at the age of 21, she was forced to quit.

"A geisha has to quit when she gets married," she said. "So [when] I got married, I retired and went to Tokyo to have a married life."

Editor’s Picks

Fare from afar: Chefs share authentic Japanese cuisine to transport your taste budsMay 06, 2021
How Korean American mom and attorney's growing soju brand supports the AAPI communityMay 31, 2021
How Clarice Lam whips up culturally significant confections that highlight her Cantonese heritageMay 11, 2021

Life in urban Tokyo was completely at odds with her previous life, and Moe said she was "shocked by the cultural difference."

"Since I was 15 years old, I lived in the okiya," she said. "I couldn't carry my cellphone, I couldn't watch TV -- I lived in that world."

Meet the mom, a former geisha, who just hit 1 million subscribers on YouTube (6)

MORE: How various Asian cultures, immigrants and ingredients shaped authentic Hawaii cuisine

As a housewife with a husband who didn't want her to go out, Moe said she felt "like a bird in a cage." Now knowing what the world outside of the okiya was like, she didn't want to give up her freedom and pushed for a divorce.

"After I knew my freedom, I met many various people and I couldn't live without my real personality," she said.

Moe started working and later remarried. However, after she became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter, Sutan, she again had to leave her job.

"I always thought that I didn't want to go back to living as a housewife," she said. "But I didn't know that being a mom was so busy."

The transition to YouTube

In early 2020, a YouTuber named Paolo contacted Moe to ask if she'd be willing to be filmed for his "Japan Day in the Life" series. Her video focused on a day in the life of a Japanese mom and, with 15 million views at the time of writing, is his most popular in the series.

"At the time I was featured in Paolo's video, I had never seen YouTube," Moe said, adding that Paolo was the first YouTuber she'd ever met. "I intuitively thought, 'Maybe I can do it too.'"

Meet the mom, a former geisha, who just hit 1 million subscribers on YouTube (7)

MORE: New online grocer Umamicart connects consumers with beloved Asian food products

For her channel, Moe thought to feature what was familiar.

"When I thought about what I could do now, I had an idea that I'd try to combine kimono and cooking," she said. "I make recipes because I want people from overseas to see them. ... I use ingredients that are easily available overseas."

Armed with just an iPhone and laptop, "Kimono Mom" was born.

The videos have a universal appeal

In her first video on Feb. 21, 2020, Moe is in a kimono as she demonstrates how to make a deep-fried lotus root sandwich. Throughout the video, she has to stop what she's doing multiple times because of Sutan crying or wanting to be held -- an experience that parents everywhere know all too well.

While some may edit out those clips or reshoot, Moe doesn't shy away from them, leaving them in the final product. It's this level of authenticity that Moe believes is the reason her channel has garnered such an international following.

"The image of mothers is international," Moe said. "It doesn't change so much in Japan, the United States or Brazil. There are mothers all over the world so even if the person watching isn't a mother ... a mother's presence is close to people's hearts."

Initially, Moe didn't want her daughter to appear in the videos for privacy reasons, but said the nature of being a mom to a young child made it "inevitable."

"My daughter hasn't left me alone since she started talking," Moe said. "It feels like she's always next to me."

Meet the mom, a former geisha, who just hit 1 million subscribers on YouTube (8)

With her videos, Moe hopes to provide a lens into Japanese culture, food and motherhood. In addition to cooking, Moe also vlogs about other aspects of her life, such as her family's daily activities, how they spend their holidays and her daughter's "terrible twos".

Moe's most popular video, with 10.9 million views, is the first of a two-part series that follows her for a 24-hour period as she goes about a normal day. She wakes up at 5 a.m., has a couple hours to herself to work on personal stuff and then once Sutan wakes up at 7 a.m., she spends the rest of the day with her daughter taking care of any and all family duties.

Though she has little time for herself nowadays, Moe said she feels fulfilled and her viewers' encouragement keeps her going.

"Making videos is now a part of my life," she said. "At first, I wasn't connected to society, I was only a parent and I was depressed as a housewife, but the viewers' comments and messages saved me. I'm lucky to make friends all over the world. ... I feel that I'm very connected to every one of them."

Meet the mom, a former geisha, who just hit 1 million subscribers on YouTube (2024)


Where does Kimono Mom live? ›

Currently, I live in Tokyo with my husband and our 4-year-old daughter. I am originally from Kyoto and used to work as a maiko and geisha. After retiring from that profession, I have been a housewife in Tokyo ever since.

What do geishas do? ›

Geisha (or geiko) are professional entertainers who attend guests during meals, banquets and other occasions. They are trained in various traditional Japanese arts, such as dance and music, as well as in the art of communication.

Is Kimono mom a geisha? ›

Life as a Geisha

She always had a love for the traditional Japanese world because her grandfather worked in the Kimono industry. At the age of 16, she had a chance to study the traditional professions of Kyoto while she was in high school, leading her to become a Maiko and then Geiko (Geisha) in Gion, Kyoto.

What is kimono moms business? ›

Our mission is to spread Japanese home cooking to the world. UMAMI SAUCE, which is vegan, gluten-free, non-alcoholic, and MSG-free, was created with the hope that everyone in the world can enjoy Japanese food. Kitchen tools, such as the Donabe, were created for the authentic Japanese handcrafted experience.

What is geisha in Japan? ›

The Japanese word geisha literally means “art person,” and singing, dancing, and playing the samisen (a lutelike instrument) are indispensable talents for a geisha, along with the ability to make conversation. Many geisha are also adept at flower arranging, performing the tea ceremony, or calligraphy.

Who is the second husband of kimono mom? ›

The birth of Kimono Mom

Where she is today includes finding love in her second husband, Moto, who she says showed her what it “truly meant to be supported”.

What is Paolo de Guzman's nationality? ›

He's a Filipino American, California/Washington native, who moved to Tokyo 20+ years ago and fell in love with the city.

What gender is kimono? ›

There are different types of kimono for men, women, and children, varying based on the occasion, the season, the wearer's age, and – less commonly in the modern day – the wearer's marital status.

When did Japanese stop wearing kimono? ›

Shōwa period (1926–1989)

While kimono were no longer common wear for men, they remained everyday wear for Japanese women until World War II (1940–1945).

Why is kimono left over right? ›

A kimono, happi, uwagi, or other upper-body Japanese garment is always worn left over right (notice how the sushi chef wears his jacket next time you visit your favourite Japanese restaurant). The reason for this is to accommodate a pre-dominantly right-handed population when drawing the sword using the right hand.

Who is the slowest person to reach 1 million subscribers? ›

17.5 years.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rueben Jacobs

Last Updated:

Views: 6524

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rueben Jacobs

Birthday: 1999-03-14

Address: 951 Caterina Walk, Schambergerside, CA 67667-0896

Phone: +6881806848632

Job: Internal Education Planner

Hobby: Candle making, Cabaret, Poi, Gambling, Rock climbing, Wood carving, Computer programming

Introduction: My name is Rueben Jacobs, I am a cooperative, beautiful, kind, comfortable, glamorous, open, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.