With only 200 geisha remaining in Japan, the chances of crossing paths with one, let alone meeting one, are slim. That’s not to say you won’t get lucky while visiting Kyoto’s Gion district, the hometown for geisha, but an encounter with one should be special and pre-planned. These elusive figures are walking, talking pieces of art that have trained for years to master their profession. To truly appreciate the art requires more than just luck. Being in the right place, with a chance to interact and to observe their movements, will give you the greatest satisfaction and a meaningful understanding for their art. After all, you wouldn’t settle for a long distance glance of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, would you?
Meeting a true geisha should be on everyone’s bucket list, which is why we’ve included this rare experience on our NEW 11-day Northern Kanto & Niigata tour.
What is a Geisha exactly?
Geisha, or geiko, are professional entertainers who are highly trained in traditional Japanese arts such as dance, music, and conversation. They are distinctly characterized by their white-painted faces, traditional Japanese hairstyles and elaborate kimonos. A Maiko is the term for a trainee wishing to become a geisha. They usually start their careers as young as 15 and spend about five to six years training. When a maiko turns 20 and is acknowledged to be skillful in art and service, she becomes a full-fledged geisha. At this point she is considered mature enough to listen and to talk with guests at a higher level of artistry.
How Can You Arrange Geisha Entertainment?
Traditionally, access to a high-end geisha experience at a teahouse, or ochaya, is gained only through connections. It can be very costly, starting from around $900 U.S. dollars, sometimes significantly more depending on the restaurant and drinks consumed. However, many find it well-worth the cost for a private performance, lively conversation and dinner for two. Concierges in Kyoto’s five-star hotels and luxury ryokan are usually able to set up evenings for an authentic geisha experience. While there are more budget-friendly options for geisha entertainment, travelers run the risk of experiencing a poor quality of the art form.
On our Northen Kanto + Niigata tour, we travel to Niigata Furumachi (old-town) for a specially-arranged private geisha performance. Enjoy elegant dancing and play games with authentic Geigi – Geisha of Niigata. Take pictures and sip on tea as you watch the magic unfold. This part of our tour is a highlight and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our guests. Not only can they claim of having met an authentic geisha, they will also arrive home with the life-long memory of the exquisite performance they were able to witness.