The cherry blossom season is most beautiful in the city of Kyoto. I missed many years of cherry blossoms due to global warming & mistiming. In 2006, I finally made it back to Kyoto, the ancient capital where all things ancient & conventional can still be experienced in this city.
A year ago before my last visit to Kyoto, "Memoirs of a Geisha" brought back the urge to revisit this elegant city where geishas & maikos dwell. It is my 3rd visit to this city but my first visit to the Miyako Odori (cherry blossom dance) where geishas & maikos performed the dance every spring. The history of Miyako Odori dates back as far as 1872 (134 years ago!). It is a fun time of the year, every visitor is exuberant & enjoy the atmospheric city at this time of the year to the utmost. One can even go as far as dressing up & posing as a Geisha or Maiko just for the fun of it all. I did & you should :-) Transformation packages usually comes with a night stay at a tatami setting guesthouse near the studio so that you may fully indulge yourself in the Japanese traditional culture and imbude yourself with the setting of ancient Kyoto! A most unforgettable experience.
[I stayed at Pension Gion for the night before my transformation. It's nice and very much affordable.]
I may have sidetracked since this is afterall a review on Geisha and not Geisha transformation. However, I also know most readers would not want to miss this chance and some like me initially would not have known about this and many are not as lucky as I'm to have visited this city for many times. So, if you enjoy meeting up with Geisha and do engage their services (it's HIGHLY expensive, be forewarned! and it's not for sex as the movie may imply! That's not what Geisha is all about either!), then you might also want to have this chance of a lifetime to transform yourself.
Now, back to this review of Geisha. What is Geisha and what is their true mission in life? Geisha and Geiko are traditional Japanese entertainers who are mainly found in the ancient city of Kyoto and who make their living from performing traditional classical Japanese dances and music for their guests. They are highly commanded and began their training at very young age (very much like ballet dancers or Balinese dancers). Good Geisha are held in high regard (very much reputable, unlike what the movies or novels may imply) and they earn their living by displaying their artistic skills to their guests. Geisha learns and plays traditional instruments like the shamisen, shakuhachi and the drums. They also need to display their skills in traditional dances, poetry, tea ceremony and literature. For more of what Geisha does and doesn't, please read it up on Wikipedia.
The best place to see lots of Geisha is actually during the Miyako Odori festival (when cherry blossoms bloom every year, around end March to early April or mid April). They will perform dances in Gion and also at some temples and you can watch it for free if you happened to be at the temple during the time of their performances. These performances can last for as long as 2 hours or more so it's a great deal if you can catch it for free. An excellent deal! I happened to chance on them while at Heian Shrine during this particular visit. Simply beautiful although the performances were by mostly young Maiko (for difference between Maiko, Geiko and Geisha, kindly read it on Wiki or check it online). Otherwise, the scheduled performances can be reserved at Gion Kobu Kaburenjo where you can definitely see Geisha performing (which I also did). An excellent display of artistry!
The beauty of Geisha doesn't lie in just dancing and artistry display but also in their Kimonos and traditional fashion of Japan. Kimonos are so beautiful that a really good one can even costs more than US$100,000 and up to millions! It is one fine legacy of the Japanese to keep this traditional culture up to today. Many Japanese dress in Kimono on their wedding days as well and they certainly make a beautiful sight amongst the short-lived Sakura. All in all, I feel dressing up as a Geisha is a dream comes true and one which I hope to have a chance to do it all over again. The fun part of it is to dress up as one and then go around the temples taking photos AND have tourists asking to take a photo with me! Haha... I must have been a Japanese in my past life! It'd be hilarious if one of those photos appear here on Lunch!!!
Geisha(芸者?), Geiko(芸子?) or Geigi(芸妓?) are traditional, female Japaneseentertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance.
Geisha (pronounced /ˈɡeɪʃә/), like all Japanese nouns, has no distinct singular or plural variants. The word consists of two kanji, 芸 (gei) meaning "art" and 者 (sha) meaning "person" or "doer". The most literal translation of geisha into English would be "artist" or "performing artist". Another name for geisha used in Japan is geiko, which is usually used to refer to geisha from Western Japan, including Kyoto.
Apprentice geisha are called maiko (舞子 or 舞妓, literally "dance child") or hangyoku (半玉), "half-jewel" (meaning that they are paid half the wage as opposed to a full geisha), or by the more generic term o-shaku (御酌), literally "one who pours (alcohol)". Maikos' white make-up and elaborate kimono and hairstyle is the popular image held of geisha. A woman entering the geisha community does not have to start out as a maiko, having the opportunity to begin her career as a full geisha. Either way, however, usually a year's training is involved before debuting either as a maiko or as a geisha. A woman above 21 is considered too old to be a maiko and becomes a full geisha upon her initiation into the geisha community. However, those who...