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The word geisha translates as Ďperson of the artsí and geisha must train for many years before they become qualified. Maiko (trainee geisha) must attend lessons in dance, music, tea ceremony and calligraphy as well as learn how to be good conversationalists in order to entertain their clients.

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.

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Geisha Dance Tickets


Every year each of the Geisha districts of Kyoto hold annual dance festivals, giving those lucky enough to obtain tickets the chance to see the geisha in their full splendour with vibrant kimono and beautiful hair arrangements. There are four geisha districts in Kyoto. The most famous and largest is Gion (which is actually split in two - Gion Kobu and Gion Higashi) and this was the area featured heavily in Arthur Golden's best-selling novel 'Memoirs of a Geisha'. Next door to Gion is Miyagawa-cho with Kamishichiken and Ponto-cho being the others. Each district has its own theatre and it is here that the spring dances are held.

We are delighted to be able to give all our customers who visit Kyoto during Late March, April, May and November (1st to 10th) the chance to attend these fantastic events. Tickets can be hard to come by so the more notice we have the better. However, we are usually able to fulfil even late requests.

The dances themselves are set to a musical accompaniment of shamisen (traditional Japanese guitar) and tell old stories usually of love and loss and life and death. The vibrant backdrops change during the performance to reflect the changing of the seasons with the beautiful pink cherry blossom of spring giving way to the greens of summer, the flaming golds and reds of autumn and finally the cold white snows of winter.

Tickets to the geisha dances are included as part of our Spring Elegance tours and for the spring and autumn departures of the Japan Enchantment tour.


The Geisha dances take place in late March, April, May and November. The dates for each district are as follows:

March 25th - April 7th
Kitano Odori (Kamishichiken Kabukai)

April 1st - April 30th
Miyako Odori   (Gion Kobu Kaburen-jo Theatre)

1st Sunday in April - 3rd Sunday in April  
Kyo Odori    (Miyagawa-cho Theatre)

May 1st - May 24th
Kamogawa Odori   (Pontocho Theatre)

November 1st - November 10th
Gion Odori (Gion Kaikan Theatre)

The dances take place in each district's theatre. The word for these theatres in Japanese is kaburenjo and each is simply named after the district it is located in:

Gion Kaburenjo
Miyagawacho Kaburenjo
Pontocho Kaburenjo
Kamishichiken Kaburenjo

You can find these marked on tourist maps of Kyoto.

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Inside Japan Tours - Independent British Travel Awards 2011 - Best Tour Operator To East and Central Asia
The Guardian, The Observer - Travel Awards 2010 Winner - Best tour operator (small)
Inside Japan Tours - Silver at the British Travel Awards 2009