Kyoto: The Heart of the Geisha Community


2018 January 14

If you’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be a geisha or if you want to meet one in the flesh, then it’s high time you book a ticket to Japan. Seeing a geisha in action is definitely a unique and memorable experience.


In case you’re a fan of the book and film, Memoirs of a Geisha, you’ll be thrilled to experience it all in Kyoto. First, here’s everything you need to know about the life of a geisha.




The Makings of a Geisha


A geisha is a highly-skilled entertainer who is often present in high-end private parties and special events. Just to make it perfectly clear, geishas are not prostitutes. Many people often mistake these women as such because some books and movies paint them in that particular way. The real geishas undergo years of training to learn and master the traditional Japanese arts in order to become the ultimate entertainer. 


Young girls between the age of 15 and 20 who are training to become a geisha are called maiko. They study and prepare for five years to achieve a geiko status. A geiko refers to a fully-fledged geisha.




Difference between a Maiko and Geiko


How do you know if you’re looking at a maiko or a geiko? For starters, a maiko is wrapped in a colorful long-sleeved kimono. They style their hair up using extravagant hairpins.


A maiko lives under the care of a kami-san or house mother during their training. During this period, maikos are not allowed to have romantic relationships.  


A geiko, on the other hand, wears a simple shorter-sleeved kimono and a wig. Once maikos become geikos, they are permitted to live on their own or get married. Some even choose a different profession after they have achieved full geisha status. You will usually see both maiko and geiko entertain their guests together during events.




Where to Find them Best


So why head to Kyoto? Well, Kyoto is in known as the center of geishas. Although other popular cities such as Tokyo have their own version of a geisha, the ladies have a different kind of training than the girls in Kyoto.


The geishas in Kyoto are strictly trained which clearly defines the maiko and geiko culture. There is an estimate of about a hundred maikos and geikos residing in Kyoto.




How to Experience the Geisha Entertainment


Hiring a geisha for private functions certainly doesn’t come cheap. A dinner for two can cost around $900 or more depending on the food and restaurant. Even if it is expensive, you cannot just easily get a geisha. You’ll need a personal introduction first from one of their existing clients. Some tour companies can arrange it for you.


If you can’t afford it, one alternative is to dine out with a group of people. There are restaurants that provide geishas to entertain their guests. Another way to experience the geisha entertainment is to attend a geisha performance.

  • japan
  • geisha
  • Culture
  • Activity
  • kyoto
  • japan tradition