When you visit Gion, the Geisha district of Kyoto, you may spot one scurrying along a quiet side street, or being surrounded by tourists trying to catch a glimpse into a quintessential part of Japan. One thing is obvious, they are not attention seeking beings, they are more elegant, quaint and prestigious to the Japanese culture.
An opportunity to spend an evening with a Japanese Geisha at Gion Hatanaka was truly a magnificent way to get to know the artists in a more personal way. We got to see their makeup close up; the way their eye-shadow, face powder, lipstick are all applied with precision. The manner in which their hair is made up, their beautiful kimonos and the way they hold themselves. I was mesmerised. Young ladies aged between 15-20 train for five years to become a Geisha (in Western Japan in regions such as Kyoto, they preferred to be called Geiko). During this training period, they are known as Maiko, learning the traditional art of Japanese entertainment.
The host showed us our table where we were seated with fellow diners from all over the world. Laid on the table in front of us was a dark lacquered box, wrapped in a decorative paper ribbon. It was presented as a gift, a box offering beautifully presented Kaiseki cusine and each course was beautifully presented and cooked with care and attention. It was here that I also experienced my first Sake drink – it was strong and one sip was enough to send me into a deep coma! Lol.
The evening started out with the host introducing a beautiful Maiko called Koyoshi, followed by a graceful Geiko called Fukumari. Both performed a traditional Kyoto dance called Kyomai with such poise and beauty. It was hard to take your eyes off them! After the dance, the Koyoshi and Fukumari, along with a translator visited each table and we took the opportunity to ask them anything we wanted to. It was a chance to get to know them behind the iconic façade as well as understand more about why they do this as a profession. They were truly sweet and adorable girls who just like to watch American movies and go to the cinema and hang out with their friends on their days off.
Though it has become a popular tourist attraction, it will give you a glimpse of the culture which is otherwise difficult to access and an evening with a Geisha is undoubtedly is one of our highlights of our trip. Further details can be found here
The Japanese culture and traditions are admired from many people around the world, I hope you are able to see the beauty of the arts in which Maiko's & Geiko's are taught to perform taking many years to master and the challenges they face in pursuit of this lifestyle.
One day, I hope you too will be able to experience this amazing Kyoto tradition.