Kyoto, Japan

Discover the birthplace of geisha culture in Gion district

Though geisha can be found throughout Japan, Kyoto is considered the birthplace of geisha culture, and its historic Gion district, with many old-style Japanese houses called machiya and ochaya (tea houses), is probably the most exclusive and well-known place for seeing geisha. Take a stroll through the vibrant Hanamikoji Street, crowds of Japanese girls in colorful kimonos will catch your eyes, on the wooden Tatsumi Bridge, amid upscale Japanese restaurants or boutiques. However, to see a geisha – or “geiko” in Kyoto dialect, it’s not just about much effort. You can wander for hours on the streets in the late afternoons and evenings, and might catch a glimpse of them heading out to an ochaya. The best bet of seeing geiko and maiko (geisha in training) is to simply book yourself a Japanese dining experience at an ochaya, lavish and authentic. You can see them perform dances, play jovial drinking games and engage in conversations to understand about geisha culture. For a budget experience, pay a visit to Gion Corner, a nightly one-stop shop for geisha entertainment with multiple traditional Japanese performing arts. Touristy, but certainly the most convenient option.

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