Kyoto City Tourism Association this week invited a group of Australian travel agents to discover Kyoto’s elusive geisha culture in an exclusive “meet and talk” online experience with a Kyoto maiko. The event promoted upcoming free streaming events which will include a geisha district guided tour and geisha performance video.
Staying home now does not mean that you have to miss out on Kyoto’s stunning scenery and cultural highlights and some of the best experiences can now be explored online.
Japan’s cultural capital is taking this opportunity to showcase traditions and culture with a new range of exclusive virtual tours. While there are plenty of online tours to choose from, experienced travel operator, Luxury Tours Japan has curated a range of interactive virtual experiences that go one step further, giving deeper insights into some Kyoto cultural treasures, meeting experts, and taking viewers to places otherwise impossible to access.
To showcase these new virtual tours the initial 2 FREE tours will take audiences inside the world of the geisha¹ into one of Kyoto’s most historic tea houses².
The tours are designed as tasters for what is to come. From 26 to 30 March, when the cherry blossoms should be in full bloom, a series of six additional paid virtual tours will take place combining a cherry blossom viewing walk and a meeting with a Kyoto maiko.
Original virtual tours and cultural experiences can also be curated for virtual conferences, private parties, birthday or anniversary celebrations, business incentives and more. Luxury Tours Japan can also handle requests to arrange mail-related gifts like sake samples or Kyoto artisan crafts, from Kyoto to the participants.
About the Kyoto Free Tours:
What: Live Geisha District Guided Tour and Geisha Performance Video Streaming
When: 17 March 2021 9:00PM (AEST) and 19 March 2021 10:00AM (AEST)
Duration: 40 minutes
- Live streaming from Kyoto, viewers will be guided in a walking tour around one of the geisha districts (Q&A will be available in the chatbox). There may also be a chance to see cherry blossom buds opening.
- Followed by a prerecorded video streaming of a geiko and maiko discussion session at an exclusive traditional tea house venue. Audiences will hear the geiko and maiko speaking about their daily life and work.
- Streaming of a prerecorded dance performance by one of the geiko.
Note: Registration in advance is required and places are limited for these events. Register for free here.
¹About Kyoto Geisha (Geiko & Maiko)
In Kyoto, geisha are formally called geiko, and apprentice geiko are called maiko. Geiko are professional entertainers, trained in various traditional Japanese arts such as dance and music, they are also trained in the art of communication, in a tradition that goes back centuries.
Kyoto is home to five geisha districts known as hanamachi (flower towns), namely Miyagawa-cho Kabu-kai, Ponto-cho Hanamachi, Gion Kobu, Gion Higashi Kabu-kai and Kamishichiken Kabu-kai. Collectively they are called gokagai (5 flower towns).
Geiko and maiko live in special houses called okiya, located in the geiko districts. In Kyoto, young aspiring geiko would typically move to an okiya from around 15 years of age to begin rigorous training in traditional arts and communication. After an introductory training and examination, only the really talented and determined will be able to continue on to become a maiko and eventually, some years later, to become a geiko.
Their work is to attend guests during meals, banquets and other occasions and make guests feel at ease with conversation, drinking games and dance performances. Customarily, these special dinners take place in Kyoto’s tea houses, known as ochaya in the geiko districts. Ochaya are extremely exclusive places with a very particular and traditional way of doing business. Due to the way they operate they only grant entry to known and trusted customers and are not open to everyone. This exclusivity has preserved a sense of mystery around geiko culture and practices.
²About the Tea house venue
Tantsuru is a traditional tea house and has been a fixture in Kyoto since the establishment of the Ponto-cho geisha district. According to the fifth-generation current owner, who was informed of the lineage by his parents and grandparents, it was built around 1750. As much of Ponto-cho area was swept away by the Kamo River flood in 1935 there are no official records.
Many areas in Kyoto were burnt down and rebuilt after the great fire of 1864, however, Ponto-cho was not destroyed by the inferno and retains many original old buildings. Around 1871 (150 years ago) most of the streets and buildings in Kyoto City were renovated, but the buildings in Ponto-cho were left as they were in the Edo period (1603 – 1868) and are still preserved and used today.
Tantsuru is one of only three truly traditional tea houses operating in the Ponto-cho area and is usually only frequented by regular clients. Luxury Tours Japan is able to open this very special place to an international audience through exclusive virtual visits.
Kyoto misses international visitors and looks forward to welcoming travellers back when it is safe to travel. Kyoto City is taking every precaution to halt the spread of COVID-19, for information on the current situation, go here.