WHERE TO SEE
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
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.
A street in Gion,
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
A geisha at work in Gion
Kyoto. Picture by
Wikipedia article and used under the
GNU Free Documentation License)