One of the greatest examples of Japan’s traditional culture involves the blushing Geisha or Geiko that still exist today. Geisha are professional entertainers trained to study Japanese arts, tea ceremonies, dance, music and communication to showcase to local guests and tourists.
Originally spread throughout the cities of Tokyo, Kanazawa and Kyoto, today the most prestigious Geisha are located in the five major districts of Kyoto: Gion Kobu, Gion Higashi, Miyagawacho, Pontocho, and Kamishichiken. From their beautiful hair and ornaments to their traditional attires, geisha are the true epitome of Japan’s historical culture and beauty.
Geisha are trained at the early age of 15. They move out from their family and live in special houses called okiya. At this introductory stage, they learn various lessons about traditional arts and skills, including communication and hospitality. Once they have passed this stage, they will be a Geiko apprentice or Meiko to continue their mastery of various skills and eventually become Geiko.
In an exceptional experience with Geiko, guests are welcomed to eat and drink while entertained by Meiko and Geiko. They engage in conversation and sometimes participate in various games. The main highlight of the evening includes the Geiko’s majestic performance of traditional dance accompanied by another Geiko playing ancient music of Japan using an instrument called shamisen.
Geiko performances can be witnessed in ochaya or tea houses within the Geiko districts. These places offer tatami rooms where dinner is served and performances are held. Ochaya are highly exclusive houses as they maintain their traditional roots of doing business. Guests pay the overall expenses of the Geiko experience, including the food, room, and transportation of Geiko, and guests commit to paying the charge every month. Therefore, entry access to ochaya is offered to trusted customers.
Whether you want to witness the Geiko districts or experience Geiko dinners and performances, you can immerse yourself in the traditional Japanese culture and experience it with your family and friends. You can also visit a former ochaya in the Kanazawa Higashi Chaya district museum, where locals and tourists can view the insides of the traditional ochaya and exhibition of accessories, instruments and much more.