I had the rare opportunity to meet real-life geishas as part of the Kagurazaka Cultural Festival this past Sunday. These types of performances are usually conducted in ryotei, a sort of luxurious dining club where patrons eat, drink, and are entertained by trained geisha, a pleasure they willingly pay large sums to enjoy (we’re talking ¥30,000 and up). This demonstration was held at the kenban in Kagurazaka, the official office and training place of the city’s geishas, and while sadly there was no food or booze involved, everyone was positively giggling their faces off and enjoying the contrast between ancient high art, replete with traditional string instruments and well-timed drum beats, and the silliness of crouching down on their knees in a tiger pose. It began with a song and dance, and ended with a series of games. You can read more about the geisha training process and entertainment etiquette here.
To be clear, geishas are traditionally not sex workers, but performance artists and entertainers. Oiran is the term used for a courtesan, who like the geisha, is highly cultured and skilled in arts and entertainment.
Geisha Dance Festival, Shinbashi (1908)
It was a delight to witness this art form up close and it was a nice break from the rest of my Sunday, which I spent grouting the shower, running 6 miles (Tokyo Marathon training), and studying for the LSAT. Cheers to another week, hopefully I will be over this cold and awful cough soon enough. I need to invest in a humidifier…
xo your friend alice
Location: Kagurazaka-shita, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan