What is the meaning of ‘makanai’ from Netflix’s Cooking For The Maiko House?

Ella Kipling January 13, 2023
What is the meaning of ‘makanai’ from Netflix’s Cooking For The Maiko House?
Two young maiko girls, geishas in training, in the streets of Kyoto. From Getty Images.

The new Netflix series The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, premiered globally on January 12. Many who have seen the show advertised want to know: what is the meaning of makanai?

Based on a popular manga, the series has been written and directed by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, known for Like Father, Like Son (2013) and Shoplifters (2018).

Kore-eda researched the geisha and the communal living quarters in Kyoto where they all live together for the series.

“I was fascinated by how the women call each other mothers and sisters despite having no blood relations,” he said. “Their way of life inspired me to recreate this world for the screen.”

Two young women holding parasols wearing traditional maiko kimonos

Netflix releases new series The Makanai

On January 12, Netflix released the new series The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House.

It is nine-episodes and tells the story of the 16-year-old Kiya, a northern Japanese girl who travels to Kyoto to become a maiko.

What is the meaning of maiko? A maiko is a young geiko, which is the Kyoto-specific word for geisha, the Japanese traditional entertainers.

While Kiyo’s friend becomes a star performer, Kiyo is deemed unfit as a maiko, but she becomes the cook at the yakata house where all of the geiko live.

What is the meaning of makanai?

Makanai is the term used to describe both the in-house cook and the meal served in a boarding house.

Food is a key theme of the series. Director Takuma Sato told Time: “I would be happy if the audience would pay attention to the aspects of eating that can excite and relax people.”

They aim to inspire audiences to think what to cook or what to eat.”

Another director of the series, Kiroshi Okuyama, explained that they tried to imitate Kiyo’s cooking and her choosing of the right ingredients.

Who stars in The Makanai?

The two girl are played by Nana Mori and Natsuki Deguchi, while Aju Makita, known for her role in True Mothers, plays Ryoko.

The series was produced by Kore-eda and Genki Kawamura, while Kore-eda also served as showrunner, writer, and director.

Kore-eda brought three up-and-coming filmmakers on board to co-write and direct individual episodes: Megumi Tsuno, Hiroshi Okuyama and Takuma Sato.

Twitter reacts to The Makanai on Netflix

Following the release of The Makanai on Netflix, viewers took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the show.

One fan said: “First episode of #TheMakanai flew by for me and I’m curious to know more about the characters I already love how warm it is, both in its visuals and its writing.”

Another wrote: “Already in tears watching first ep of the makanai– koreeda’s tender and heart warming way of story telling is unmatched truly.”

“I’m really enjoying The Makanai: Cooking For The Maiko House on Netflix so far. It’s beautifully filmed, gentle slice-of-life featuring two of my fave things (cookery and kimono)” a third tweeted.

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Ella Kipling is a freelance reporter at GRV Media. She regularly writes a mixture of news and features for HITC, Reality Titbit, and The Focus, and she has been part of the team since 2020. Ella also helped launch GRV’s student-centered website Freshered in January 2021 and continues to contribute to the site with pieces on current affairs, sports, and student advice. After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a BA (Hons) in English Literature, Ella is currently studying for an MA in Magazine Journalism at City University. Ella has a keen interest in current affairs and can usually be found reading the news, with her nose in a book (and updating her Goodreads), talking about women’s rights, or listening to showtunes.