Meeting a real maiko in Kyoto might feel like an impossible challenge. Sometimes, geisha spotting in Gion can be a form of an extreme sport. Also, you can be fooled easily by random tourists dressed up in kimono. While I really don’t recommend chasing maiko on the streets, I’m very happy to discover much better ways for meeting a geisha in Kyoto. Open parties with maiko are now a big thing over here. It’s a fun, budget, and unique experience. The world of traditional entertainment has never been closer.
First days of December are always exciting within hanamachi. Although it’s slowly getting colder, maiko and geiko get into festive mood regardless. The very first week of the month is exclusively dedicated for kabuki—special “Kaomise/顔見世総見” review is held at Kyoto Minami-za Theatre. It’s, for sure, the highlight of the whole winter season. Kabuki plays during Kaomise gather the finest actors, celebrities, and guests—including geiko and maiko who get seated at the collateral galleries inside Minami-za. The theatre itself is decorated with wooden maneki boards on the facade that create a peculiar program of current performances, as the maneki are decorated with the actors’ names respectively. This year, however, Minami-za is going under seismic-protective construction, so Kaomise was moved to the ROHM Theatre of Kyoto. The maneki plates still can be found at the new location, as many Kyoto-natives cannot imagine the wintertime without a sight of these wooden tabs.