1 January 2008 by Pete Mathers
A geisha, with her flowing kimono and ghost-white make-up, is an enduring image of Japan. Inside Japan Tours has teamed up with local expert Peter Macintosh to create an ideal opportunity to learn more of this secretive and often misunderstood world.
The classic geisha look is an impassive white face, impossibly red lips, black hair swept up into a stiff sculpture and the body wrapped in a trailing black kimono, revealing nothing but a vulnerable nape. The colours are primal: white, black and flashes of red. In the West, it is an image that evokes both mystery and fantasies of female subservience and erotic skills. In Japan, it is the highest level of formal costume worn by a highly skilled performer, a geisha: a ‘person of the arts’.
Geisha have been around for some 400 years, commanding astronomical fees for entertaining men with refined performances of music or dance and diverting conversation as they serve exquisite food. Most live and work in Gion and the surrounding districts of Kyoto, where they are referred to as geiko.
At present there are around 200 geisha working in the old city of Kyoto, down from several thousand in the 1930s, yet recent increases in the number of maiko (apprentices) hint at a revival in the age-old tradition. As is clear from the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha, which sparked outrage in Japan for its inaccurate depictions of a geisha’s services, the profession is often misunderstood by the West. For this reason, Wexas preferred partner Inside Japan Tours has teamed with local expert Peter Macintosh to offer a rare opportunity to learn more of this world. After a brief career as a professional footballer, Peter set off on a round-the-world tour, beginning in Japan. He never left and is now a well known face in Kyoto. Peter met his wife while she was working as a geisha, and through study of the geisha arts and the Japanese language, has come to be recognised as an expert on geisha districts, knowing many of Gion’s geisha and maiko personally.
Our seven-day tailor-made tour of Japan includes a walking tour of Kyoto’s geisha districts in the company of Peter Macintosh, followed by drinks and snacks with a maiko; a chance to spot geisha and maiko as they rush between tea houses.
Not just anyone can enter a tea house; you must have an official introduction, which Peter can provide for you. With Peter interpreting, you’ll spend 90 minutes enjoying drinks with a maiko, who will also perform a traditional dance. This is an authentic geisha experience not normally available to tourists. If, as occasionally is the case, no maiko is available, a full refund will of course be offered. Far more likely, however, is that this fascinating inclusion will be the highlight of your trip.
Tailormade holidays: The services provided by Peter Macintosh are genuinely authentic and not readily available to tourists. To book this unique experience call 020 7838 5967 or email your enquiry to [email protected].
ADDITIONAL GEISHA SERVICES
The services below are available as additions to our tailor-made itinerary.
Geisha dress up – the chance to transform into a geisha, with full makeup, geisha wig, choice of kimono and several photo opportunities
Maiko tea ceremony – a tea ceremony experience accompanied by a light dinner
Maiko lunch – a kaiseki lunch with a maiko followed by a walking tour of the geisha district
Geisha dance tickets – tickets to the spring and autumn geisha dance festivals in Kyoto