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Geishas in Kyoto, Japan

Updated on July 16, 2014

Smiling Geisha

Geisha in Gion

Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan and offers thousands of years of history. Gion has the largest Geisha community in Kyoto. This is the best spot to see a Geisha for free as she is coming out of her Asian home and gracefully entering a cab to be taken to an event or banquet.

While in Gion, my wish came true. After five minutes walking the streets, I saw two Geisha women exiting a home. I grabbed my camera and took a few photos, then two more appeared and I was so excited that I enjoyed the moment without snapping away.

I achieved my wish of seeing a real Geisha. It was such a thrill.

Later at dinner, we learned from our guide J-san with Super Value Tours, that it is rare to see a Geisha and that there are two types of Geishas - a Maiko and Geiko.

A Maiko "dance child" is under 20 years of age and has started her career as a Geisha at the age of 15. A Maiko stays in an Asian House with other Maiko's and goes to a Geisha School. The girls learn to speak the proper Kyoto language and work with an elderly Geiko sister. They learn the proper way to pour a tea ceremony, flower arranging and traditional Japanese dance while learning to play music. These girls are pretty and usually wear white. They tuck in the long sleeves on their beautiful kimono, a floor length silk robe embroidered with intricate designs which is held together by obi, a sash at the waist.

A Geiko is a professional geisha that lives independently. She can wear colors in her kimono. She must remain single her entire life. If she marries, she must retire. The Geiko is a better performer. There are Geikos that are in their 80s and 90s.

J-san shared with us that there are 120 Geikos and 80 Maiko. Geisha have an agent. To hire a Geisha it costs $250 per geisha for two hours with a minimum of two geisha. To enjoy a Geiko dinners its an exclusive, expensive and high class event with a Geisha at $800 for four people and you must pay for the Geisha's sake. Since the dinner is in the Kyoto dialect, you may want to hire an interpreter too.

Unfortunately, the Geisha population is on the decline.

Geisha Walking in Gion

Geisha Makeup

The girls we saw had thick white makeup. Even on the back of their neck. They had black around their eyes and eyebrows. Their lips were bright red.

Originally, I learned that the white base mask was made with lead. It caused terrible skin irritations to the older geisha. Soon it was replaced with rice powder.

In the Maiko stage they learn the art of applying makeup. They must apply their makeup before dressing in their beautiful kimonos. First a wax or oil material is applied to their skin. They start with their neck, then face and chest. The nape of their neck has a V or W shape. The nape of the neck is the most erotic area. When I saw the nape of the girl's neck, it was beautiful.

Their eyebrows and edges of the eyes are colored black and a Maiko applies red around her eyes. A Maiko will also color her teeth black during the last stage of her training. They do this because the imperial court used to do this and teeth against the white makeup look yellow. Coloring the teeth make the teeth disappear and give the illusion of an open mouth.

Geisha round the bottom lips to create the illusion of a flower bud.

Map of Where to Seek a Geisha

Gion, Japan:
Gion, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

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Have You Read Memoris of A Geisha

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Interesting Geisha Facts

1. An Okobo is used to help keep a kimono from dragging on the ground.

2. A Geisha lips are painted and then covered in crystallized sugar to keep them shiny.

3. A Geisha gets her hair done once a week and then sleeps on an elevated pillow.

4. When a Maiko and Geisha dance together in a San-San-Kudo ceremony, it binds them together as older and younger sister.

Where to find a Geisha

On the Streets in Gion
Theater in Gion
Gion Hatanaka
Hang around the Gion Corner on Hanami-Koji
Attend a show from March to November
This ryokan (Japanese Inn) offers a Geisha Package
They walk out of their Asian homes at night to get into a taxi
The tickets are about $35 per person
A Geisha or two will perform in a dance, pour sake to guests, talk and pose for photos.
You may see a Maiko or two at the end of the show perform a dance

Geisha getting ready to dance at an event

Geisha Walking the Streets in Gion


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