Posted by: nancycurteman | December 16, 2011

Kyoto: Celebrated for its Geishas

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Kyoto, Japan is celebrated for its beautiful geishas. Gion is one of the geisha districts I visited in Kyoto in hopes of seeing one of these traditional ladies. Gion is located around  Shijo Avenue between the Yasaka Shrine and the Kamo River. Here you will find the famous teahouses called ochaya where geishas entertain. These days geishas entertain both men and women. However, the price for an evening starts at incredibly expensive and zooms up from there.

The world of the geisha is known as the “flower and willow” world. It is elegant, and highly cultural. Geisha means a person of the arts not prostitute. They are professional entertainers—musicians, singers, dancers. They must undergo years of training before they earn the title of Geisha. During the month of April (the sakura or cherry blossom season) the geishas of Gion perform the Miyako Odora, “Cherry Blossom Dances. You can see them in the Kaburenjo theater in Gion.

Geisha still wear a specially tailored kimono. It is a floor length silk robe embroidered with intricate designs held together by an obi or sash at the waist. Geishas are easy to spot if you have the good fortune to be in the right spot at the right time. I did see a group of three geishas. However, I discovered later that all over Kyoto there are studios that will dress tourists or locals as geishas. So, I may have seen one of these fake geishas.

Whether fake or real, I could certainly see why Kyoto is celebrated for its geishas.


More travel tips:

Mastering the Moscow Metro isn’t Murder

Abu Simbel: One of the Most Famous Monuments in the World

5 Must See Sites in Warsaw, Poland

Au Lapin Agile: A Place to Frolic With the French


  1. It is easy to be confused about what a geisha is, based upon “popular” literature and movies. Thanks for this.


    • Geishas gained their reputation as prostitutes during the allied occupation of Japan because hundreds of Japanese prostitutes dressed up as geishas to attract GI’s who were infatuated with the “geisha mystique.”


  2. I’ve never been to Japan or Asia. Must be fascinating.


    • Japan is fascinating. It is such a study in contrast between the ancient and the ultra modern.


  3. I read Memoirs of a Geisha when it came out in 1997 and saw the Rob Marshall movie (2005). I then rented the DVD to see it again; also to see the commentary by the Director and co-producer, John DeLuca. These commentaries are often gold mines of story-development tricks, allyways, and deadends, and anyway inspire me, as if I’d just had a conversation with the director. On the surface, Geisha’s were special tea-house hired entertainment escorts (in the clean sense). Hanky-panky generally could spring up, though. Of course, we have to recognize fiction is fiction. I suspect the Geisha business has evolved toward where the women’s movement (and our worldwide thrust at being constantly politically correct) would want it to evolve, away from prostitution.


    • Richard, You mention the women’s movement. For years, Geisha’s have considered themselves much more independent than the typical Japanese wife. They could make their own life decisions. They considered themselves business women who could advance on their own merits.


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