How and where to go Geisha spotting in Kyoto plus more.
Geisha’s (or sometimes known in Kyoto as Geiko) are highly trained women who devote their lives around this traditional form of hosting. They entertain their guests by song, conversation, dance and art.
Maiko are Geisha’s in training and do not yet hold status as Geisha. Some noticeable differences between the two are:
Hair – Geisha’s wear a thick styled black wig and Maiko style their natural hair.
Make-up – Maiko will only colour one lip red whereas Geisha will colour both lips.
Shoes – Maiko are trained to walk in extremely high traditional platformed sandals.
Did you know? There were male Geisha called Houkan in the Edo period! And Female Geisha would colour their teeth black!
During our trip to Kyoto we stopped through Hanamikoji Dori after a late dinner in Gion. The time was around 11pm and the streets were dark and quiet, which made for a very mysterious atmosphere. As we quietly walked along the streets we noticed that some establishments were beginning to close for the evening and we were lucky enough to watch as quiet a number of Maiko and Geisha move between buildings. We spent almost an hour here quietly observing these breathtakingly beautiful women.
If you’d like to visit a Geisha show there is a theatre called Gion Corner that is popular for tourists as it introduces you to the history behind the tradition.
If you are looking for a less touristy spot to see Geisha during the day then we also recommend Nishigomoncho where a lot of Maiko train.
Please be aware that these women are trained to be reserved and polite. They don’t want to speak to the public while they are working as they are a host and their role is to ensure that their guest is receiving all of their undivided attention.
I believe that they wouldn’t appreciate people rushing up to them, sticking a camera in their face or forcing them to take a selfie with a stranger.
Maybe if you are very gentle and understanding in your approach you may ask for a photo while trying not to stop them from going about their business. Please be respectful if they decline.
If you feel like you must get a photo of a Geisha and your trip would not be complete without it then I suggest settling for a photo that isn’t of their face.
If you want a photo with a Geisha and Maiko or watch a performance then Gion Hatanaka, Gion Taotei, Maiko Theatre and Gion Corner are great spots to learn more about the culture.
These women are rare beautiful works of art that are decreasing in numbers every year. We have to help keep this tradition alive by playing our bit as kind tourists.