Imagine a long, hot, and humid summer day. Your legs are swollen and your mouth is longing for a cold drink. What’s better than immersing yourself in a cool stream of crystal clear spring water? Shimogamo Jinja in Kyoto hosts the most refreshing festival in Japan, 御手洗祭 Mitarashi-sai, where you can relax in a sacred river. The local water is believed to cure diseases, especially those of your legs; and if you take a sip from the nearby waterfall, your internal organs may be cleansed as well.(more…)
Kyoto is well-known for its elegant and serene Zen temples but this eternal city has a spooky side, as well. I visited one of its most mysterious places in Kyoto, a “power spot” shrine hidden in a thick and tall cedar forest far north from the city center.(more…)
The language used in Kyoto’s geiko district is an old Kyoto dialect—and some words may sound bizarre even to a Japanese native. Even if you don’t speak Japanese, you may find it useful to get familiar with the basics of 花街言葉 kagai kotoba, the “geiko districts language”. Use them during your next trip to Kyoto’s Gion!(more…)
Tayu; ghosts of the past, beautiful actresses, or mysterious dancers? I need to admit that I had no clue about any details of the tayu profession when I arrived at the Yoshino Tayu Memorial back in April 2019. I’m still a bit puzzled, as the history records seem to be incomplete, so my tayu research is ongoing. Who are these alluring entertainers?(more…)
The iconic and fascinating look of Kyoto maiko has probably made you want to try it on even once. You can make this dream come true in Kyoto—just visit one of the many makeover studios! You can become a maiko for a couple of hours there, experience the white makeup and heavy kimono outfit, and take great souvenir photos. But which maiko makeover studio is the most reliable? Is it expensive? How does the process look like? Let’s transform into a maiko with me!(more…)
The global pandemic is not giving up. It is affecting the global economy, but some businesses are suffering more than others. Naturally, the world of traditional Japanese entertainment is facing a lot of problems at the moment. Let’s take a look behind the sliding door of a notable teahouse (お茶屋 ochaya) at the most famous geisha district of Kyoto, Gion Kobu. What is their story and how are they dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?(more…)
2020, a highly anticipated year, was expected to be groundbreaking, especially for Japan. The upcoming Olympics were exciting not only for the tourists but also for the business owners who invested a lot in one safe bet: the sports games would make the economy great again. The tourism industry, in particular, was thriving in 2019 indeed and 2020 would only accelerate the boom. Because of it, it might have been secure to assume that tourism is an endless gold mine of Japan. The increasing number of tourism-related services is overwhelming, especially in Kyoto and Gion, where even the famous school for geiko is being transformed into another hotel. But then, the most unexpected and terrifying thing has happened—the coronavirus pandemic, described by the Japanese prime minister as “the biggest crisis since the II World War”. What does it mean for the geisha business?(more…)
If you think of the word geisha you probably automatically think Kyoto. Understandable—Kyoto maiko’s image is one of the most popular symbols of Japan (I even did my own academic study confirming this thesis) and it’s so distinctive that it serves as a pattern of a unified geisha look.
But not far from Kyoto lies a real treasure: a small one-house geisha district in Nara, abundant with culture, traditions, and hope for a bright future. Let’s have a look inside.
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At a tranquil August evening, just a night before a typhoon hit Kyoto, I had a privilege to be entertained by a charming maiko Toshinaho of Miyagawacho district. It is one of my job’s perks when a customer requests to meet a geiko or maiko privately. It was quite difficult to arrange an ozashiki in the middle of Obon holidays, but luckily, while the Gion Kobu artists and local businesses are off, the Miyagawacho geimaiko don’t mind the holidays and keep on working. So young Toshinaho of the Komaya house was chosen to be our star that night.(more…)