The geisha is an iconic part of Japanese culture, continuing to fascinate the world with its enigma and enchantment. They are elusive, but if you’re lucky, you might spot them with their elaborate white makeup, bright red lips, and ornate hairstyle, in various cities across japan, but your best chance would be the Gion district in central Kyoto.

Geiko and Maiko

Geisha are professional entertainers who add a touch of elegance to private parties and dinners. They have trained extensively for years in hospitality and communication and traditional Japanese arts to present their best at such events. A geisha-in-training is called a maiko. Usually, young ladies between 15 to 20 years of age become a full-fledged geisha or geiko after their training period is complete.

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The characteristic makeup is perhaps the most recognisable feature of a geisha. A thick, white foundation coats the face, neck and chest, with a thin line left at the hairline to give the impression of a mask, and a ‘W’ shape drawn at the back of the neck. The eyes are then outlined with black, and the lips painted a bright red. However, only a small pouty portion of the lips is painted, not the entire part. The hair-do is elaborate and bejewelled. The geisha present a very alluring appearance.

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Typical geiko dinners occur in tea houses or ochaya. These are highly exclusive destinations that allow entry to trusted patrons only. They are traditional, offering a tatami room for dinner, and the food and geiko are brought in from outside. The Shima Ochaya in Kanazawa is now a museum, offering a valuable insight into this exclusive practice, and the elements that go into the entertainment, like musical instruments, accessories, utensils and the like.

Maiko's hands holding the traditional bag

Dinners at the Ochaya

At the ochaya, patrons can enjoy delicious matcha green tea or the elaborate kaiseki meal while being entertained by the maiko and geiko. The geisha engage in conversation, serve food and drinks, play musical instruments, and participate in traditional parlour games with guests, showing them an enjoyable and memorable time. They are the perfect hostesses. The highlight of the evening, however, is the seasonal dance performed by the geisha, in tune to traditional music.

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Geisha Dances

The geiko experience is expensive. However, you can also enjoy the dance performances by maiko and geiko during the spectacular Miyako Odori in April in the theatre, where there are daily performances. The Kyō Odori is the second biggest Geisha dance in Kyoto, also in April. The geisha of the Gion Higashi district perform the Gion Odori in November. You can also dress up as a geisha and have your picture taken in a studio or outdoors.

The geisha have retained their mysterious allure through the centuries. Their secret world is full of intrigue. Explore this enchanting world and discover years of Japanese culture and tradition.

If you are planning a trip to Japan, do not hesitate to contact your luxury travel designer Mr. Isao Numano.