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Geisha are highly skilled entertainers who appear at high-end dinners, private parties and special events to add a special touch to the proceedings. They are NOT prostitutes, despite various silly rumors and portrayals in certain books and movies. Rather, they are ladies who have trained for years in the traditional Japanese arts to become the perfect entertainers. Young ladies, usually between the ages of 15 and 20, train for five years to become a geiko.
Knowledgeable insiders estimate that there are about geiko and maiko in Kyoto. Both maiko and geiko entertain guests and they often appear together at various functions. Maiko usually live at their okiya geisha house during their training period, under the care of a kami-san mother of the house.
During this time, they are not supposed to enter into romantic relationships or marry. After becoming geiko, they are free to live on their own and some open bars or their own okiya. Some also leave the profession, marry or both. Whether you are Japanese or foreign, you cannot experience geisha entertainment without a personal introduction from an existing client of a particular geisha house. Luckily, my tour company, Chris Rowthorn Tours , can arrange geisha entertainment for our guests. We usually arrange for private dinners at superb kaiseki restaurants, where you dine with the geisha in private rooms, and we supply bilingual interpreters so you can communicate freely with the geisha.
The price starts at Y70, per group, plus Y15, to Y20, per person for dinner. There are a few cheaper options available in Kyoto. The most famous and well-produced one is the Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening , which is offered by Gion Hatanaka ryokan.
Here, you eat dinner with a small group of other people and are entertained by several geisha, who demonstrate their dancing and also play a few drinking games with the guests. The geisha circulate during the meal so you can talk directly to them. High-end hotels and ryokan can help you source tickets. Even if you cannot catch a geisha dance or afford geisha entertainment, you can still see geisha in Kyoto.