Japanese Culture

GEISHA

WHERE TO SEE GEISHA

Geisha can still be found living in traditional Geisha houses called okiya in areas called hanamachi (花街 "flower towns"), but they are increasingly gaining their independence, especially in larger cities such as Tokyo. The glitzy, high-culture world that geisha are a part of is called karyūkai (花柳界 "flower and willow worlds"). Kyoto is where the tradition is the strongest. Two of the most prestigious and traditional geisha districts in Japan are Kyoto's Pontochō and Gion. The Geisha in these districts, who prefer to be called geiko-san, are skilled and dedicated entertainers that are widely thought to be among the finest geisha in all of Japan.

Gion, Kyoto, Japan.
A street in Gion, Kyoto, Japan.

Geisha are usually hired to host parties and gatherings for men, traditionally at tea houses (茶屋, chaya) or at traditional Japanese restaurants (ryōtei). Their time is measured in incense sticks, and is called senkōdai (線香代, "incense stick fee") or kyokudai (玉代 "jewel fee"). Another term used to describe fees is "ohana," or flower fees. The customer makes arrangements through the kenban (検番), or Geisha call-office, which keeps each geisha's schedule and makes her appointments both for entertaining and for training.

In modern Japan, even in Kyoto, geisha and maiko are now a rare sight. Visitors to Kyoto's Gion district may catch a glimpse of a maiko on her way to work, but they are far more likely to see tourists (both Japanese and foreign) who have paid to be costumed and made up as maiko as part of a souvenir photography session.

Geisha Picture
A geisha at work in Gion Kyoto. Picture by ToddLara

(Article based on Wikipedia article and used under the GNU Free Documentation License)

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