Hirokazu Kore-eda (Air Doll live-action movie) is directing the series. Megumi Tsuno, Hiroshi Okuyama, and Takuma Sato are also directing. Genki Kawamura (Detroit Metal City live-action movie) is in charge of planning. Kore-eda, Tsuno, Okuyama, Sato, and Mami Sunada are writing the scripts. Yoshihiro Furusawa and Naomi Satō are executive producers. Kenji Yamada, Ai Kashima, and Eiji Kitahara are producing the series. Risa Kitabayashi is an associate producer.
The manga’s story is set in Kyoto’s “hanamachi” geisha quarter. Here, after geisha finish their work late at night, they spend the night resting at a lodge to prepare for the next day. The story centers on Kiyo, an Aomori native who works as a cook in a geisha lodge in Kyoto after finishing junior high school and leaving home. She also has a friend named Sumire who is a maiko, or apprentice geisha.
The manga inspired an anime adaptation titled Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House. The anime premiered on the NHK World channel with English subtitles in February 2021, and new episodes debut once a month. Crunchyroll is also streaming the anime.
Koyama launched the manga in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shonen Sunday magazine in December 2016, and the series is ongoing. The manga won the Best Shōnen Manga award in the 65th Shogakukan Manga Awards in January 2020.
“The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House” is to be a joint production between Netflix, Story Inc., and the Bun-Buku company in which Kore-eda is involved. It is set for global release on Netflix later in 2022. Kore-eda will serve as showrunner, co-director, and writer for the nine-episode adaptation.
The series is based on “Maiko in Kyoto: From the Maiko House,” a popular graphic novel by Koyama Aiko, first serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday from 2016. Set in the geisha district of Kyoto, the protagonist Kiyo becomes a Makanai (person who cooks meals) at a house where apprentice geishas live together. The story depicts the everyday life of Kiyo maiko Sumire, her childhood friend who came with her from Aomori to Kyoto, amid a vibrant world of geisha and maiko courtesans and delicious food.
The comic novel won the 65th Shogakukan Manga Award and is a best-seller with over 1.8 million copies sold. The adapted screenplay is written by Kore-eda, Sunada Mami, Tsuno Megumi, Okuyama Hiroshi and Sato Takuma.
Alongside Kore-eda, Kawamura Genki (“Confessions,” “Villain,” “Your Name,” “Mirai”) will be producing. Up-and-coming directors such as Tsuno Megumi (“Ten Years Japan”), Okuyama Hiroshi (“Jesus”), and Sato Takuma (“Any Crybabies Around?”) will direct individual episodes.
Mori Nana is set to play Kiyo, the Makanai at the Maiko House. Deguchi Natsuki plays Sumire, who comes from Aomori with Kiyo and is believed to be a “once-a-century talent” as a Maiko. Makita Aju plays Ryoko, the high school daughter of the manager of the Maiko House. Matsuzaka Keiko plays Chiyo, the previous manager of the Maiko House who still plays a key role in its operation. Hashimoto Ai plays Momoko, the most popular Geisha. Matsuoka Mayu plays Yoshino, a former peer of Momoko’s who decides to return back to the path of the Geisha. Tokiwa Takako plays Azusa, the manager of the Maiko House and Ryoko’s mother.
“After receiving the offer from Kawamura, I visited Gion several times. There, I was surprised by how the people living in Maiko Houses were like a family without blood ties, and how the entire town felt like an organism connected by telephone wires,” said Kore-eda in a prepared statement. “This is not the story of people left behind by the times, but rather one that might provide us with a hint for how we should live in a post-COVID world.”