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How to meet with a Geisha in Kyoto

072110_10.jpgFujiyama (Mt.Fuji) and Geisha are two icons that symbolize JAPAN.

Unlike Samurai, Geisha are still alive with their white-painted faces, traditional Japanese hairstyles and fabulous kimonos. If you have a chance to meet one, it will definitely be the highlight of your trip to Japan. So where does one meet them? That’s the problem.

Before talking about the ways to meet Geisha, let me explain a little about Maiko and Geiko, the terms used to refer to Geisha in my hometown of Kyoto. Kyoto is known as the historical former capital of Japan which has over a thousand years history. There remain a hundred Maiko, apprentice Geisha, and 200 Geiko, matured Geisha. A Maiko is under 20, usually starting her career as young as 15 to be a professional in Japanese traditional culture and entertainment. Both Maiko and Geiko go to a special school to learn Japanese culture such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, Japanese traditional music and dance. Maiko are professional artists, yet their charm is in their youth and immaturity. Their appearance emphasizes their youth. For example, they tuck their sleeves in at the shoulder like a child.072110_11.jpg When they turn 20 and are acknowledged to be skillful in art and service, they become Geiko. They are usually mature enough to listen and talk to the guest and required a higher level of artistry.

Let me give you some tips to actually meet Geisha. It may sound like a dream, but it is possible. What’s more, there are several choices ranging financially from reasonable to expensive.

For budget travelers who want to see Geisha but don’t want to spend much money, Gion Corner is the best place to go. It is a theater where they play a digest version of seven Japanese traditional performing arts: tea ceremony, flower arrangement, koto (Japanese Harp) playing, gagaku (court dance), kyogen (comic play), Maiko dance and Bunraku (puppet play). At the end of the show, a Maiko or two show up and dance a traditional Japanese dance. As the theater was first made for the Tokyo Olympic Games to welcome foreign guests, it has various language brochures and earphone guides. You can experience all the performances for only 3, 150 yen (35$) ! The shows are held from March to November, though recently they also tend to have special performances only on weekends during winter time.

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