Traditionally, geisha were trained from childhood, leaving their homes in the countryside to live in the o-kiya in the city. However, in more recent times, girls complete their compulsory education before leaving school at fifteen to begin their training.
Most of the geisha in Japan live and work in Gion and the surrounding districts of Kyoto where they are referred to as geiko in the local dialect. It is here that you will be able to spot these graceful women as they rush between appointments in the many tea houses dotted about the back streets. These tea houses, or o-chaya in Japanese, are where the geisha entertain and perform for their clients. However, not just anyone can enter a tea house; you must have an official introduction and as is to be expected of such an exclusive service, you might have to save up for the privilege.
The role of a geisha is often misunderstood by many in the West and for this reason InsideJapan Tours has teamed up with local experts to give our clients a unique opportunity to learn a little more about this hidden world.
Drinks with a Maiko
A geisha with her elaborate kimono and ghost white make-up, is one of the most enduring images of Japan. Our unique 'drinks with a maiko experience' is a not to be missed opportunity to spend some time with a Kyoto maiko. In the early evening you will join a fascinating walking lecture of the geisha area covering the famous district of Gion and its lesser-known neighbour, Miyagawa-cho. You will learn all about the geisha way of life as well having the chance to see the maiko and geisha as the hurry between appointments.
You will then move on to Hanagumo, a traditional Japanese bar located in Miyagawa-cho in a beautiful old Japanese house. Here you will be entertained in private by a maiko for around ninety minutes. Your host for the evening will be Peter Macintosh, long term Kyoto resident and a renowned expert on geisha. He will translate for you over drinks and snacks allowing you a chance to gain a real insight into this mysterious world. It is also a lot of fun! There will be a chance to watch a performance of traditional dance and of course, you can ask any questions you like during the evening.
This is a fantastic opportunity to experience a highly exclusive service that is usually only available through a personal introduction.
This service is available all year round. However, if you are planning to include this in your trip then you should keep in mind the peak seasons of April and November. At these times the maiko and geisha are extremely busy and it can be hard for Peter to book an appointment. If you are interested just let us know and we can include this as part of any Self-Guided Adventure or Fully Tailored Trip.
Drinks with a maiko takes place at Hanagumo in the Miyagawa-cho district of Kyoto, just a short walk from the Minamiza Theatre. This can be reached from central Kyoto in 5-15 minutes on foot. From the station area a taxi takes just 7 minutes and is very inexpensive at around 1000 yen.
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