Geisha and Maiko: Traditional Kyoto, Japan

Maiko (in red kimono) and Geishas spotted at Pontocho (Shijo-dori end) Gion, Kyoto

Maiko (in red kimono) and Geishas spotted at Pontocho (Shijo-dori end) Gion, Kyoto

I’ve never bumped into any geisha or maiko in all my visits to Kyoto and who knows? On my 4th visit, I finally spotted 4!… Yes, 4!

In Kyoto, a geisha is also known as a geiko (芸子). However a geisha should not be confused with a maiko (舞子), an apprentice geisha. Confusing?

There are differences in the dressing between a maiko and a geisha. In the above photo, the lady dressed in the bright red kimono is a maiko. A maiko usually adorns more elaborate ‘kanzashi (簪)’ (hair ornaments used in traditional Japanese hairstyle), and wears brightly coloured kimono with extravagant obi. This maiko had an elegant gold coloured obi which dangled all the way to her calves.

Exquisite dressing.

These artisans were spotted just outside Pontocho (先斗町), which is an atmospheric narrow alley lined with many eateries, geisha houses and bars. Pontocho, Gion is the place to be if you want to spot some geisha or maiko. If you are lucky, you might bump into one or two! However, don’t be disappointed if you don’t see any, as it is not easy to spot one.

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The beautiful long pocketed sleeves of the maiko's kimono dangle close to the ground

The beautiful long pocketed sleeves of the maiko’s kimono dangle close to the ground

Paparazzi at work - the final parting shot

Paparazzi at work – the final parting shot

Well, admittedly we shouldn’t have gone all tourist paparazzi trigger happy. However, the adrenalin rush and excitement kicked in and the next things that happened were all in a whirr.

Pontocho (先斗町), Gion district, Kyoto

Pontocho (先斗町), Gion district, Kyoto

While you await your chance encounter with a geisha or two, Pontocho is a great place for a leisure stroll down the preserved cobbled streets. It is a great place for dinner too, however it may be worth noting that some restaurants may be rather pricey. Some restaurants which are on the Kamogawa River side offer riverside patio dining as well.

Ubiquitous lanterns lighting up Pontocho

Ubiquitous lanterns lighting up Pontocho

Long, narrow atmospheric alleyways

Long, narrow atmospheric alleyways

I love the traditional beauty and old world charm which Kyoto evokes.

Traditional Japanese umbrellas decorating the facade of a shop

Traditional Japanese umbrellas decorating the facade of a shop

I love Kyoto

I love Kyoto

How to Get There

Pontocho is located in the Gion district, and is just a short walk from the busy shopping area on Shijo-dori. From the Hankyu Line, alight at Kawaramachi Station. Alternatively, alight at Shijo Station on the Keihan Line.

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