For a glimpse of one of Japan's most cherished customs, a day spent with traditional "maiko", (literally "dancing child", or apprentice geisha) is an unforgettable occasion. A maiko, aged 16-20, must undergo a 5-year training period where she learns to master the arts of the geisha before becoming a "geiko" around the age of 20, which may include manners, elocution, dancing, singing, and musicianship. In addition to learning these ancient arts, maiko today undergo training for more contemporary skills such as computer proficiency and English lessons to best serve Western tourists. This centuries-old tradition is upheld to this day as maiko and geiko serve and entertain locals and visitors in highly traditional Japanese restaurants and theatres. For more information about geisha, please visit our blog: http://us.jnto.go.jp/blog/how-to-meet-with-a-geisha-in-kyoto/
The Gion district is home to several traditional Japanese institutions such as restaurants, ryokan, teahouses, and various religious structures. Those interested in studying the ways of the maiko must look no further than a maiko studio held in a traditional machiya townhouse. Here, girls and women may adorn themselves in typical maiko costume, including wigs, kimonos, shoes, and makeup. A friendly staff performs a complete maiko transformation on the guest using meticulous make-up techniques, hair styling methods, and ornate kimonos. Girls may then walk the surrounding neighborhood as they soak up the authenticity of this respected custom, or take professional-grade photos in and around traditional Japanese architecture.
Learn more about the Gion District here:
Geisha Maiko Dress-Up
Those interested in dressing up in full geisha regalia may do so at one of several shops and studios around Kyoto. A friendly staff performs a complete maiko transformation on the guest using meticulous make-up techniques, hair styling methods, and ornate kimonos. Girls may then walk the surrounding neighborhood as they soak up the authenticity of this respected custom, or take professional-grade photos in and around traditional Japanese architecture.
Visit http://kyoto-maiko.com/ for more information.
Traditional Japanese Banquet
In order to further experience professional maiko in a more traditional environment, private dinners can be arranged. Throughout this "high-society" dinner, two to three maiko and geisha will accompany you and your party with singing and dancing while you enjoy a kaiseki dinner, which is a special multi-course meal comprised of the finest-quality seasonal ingredients. A kaiseki may include seasonal fish, meats, sashimi soups, vegetables, and fruits, depending on which ingredients are ideal for the season. Maiko will serve and entertain throughout the entire meal, teaching visitors proper Japanese customs, engaging in playful games, and demonstrating traditional Japanese arts and performances. The meal ends with a green tea ceremony that provides visitors with a calming, zen-like conclusion to a wonderful meal.
Here are some ryokan (Japanese Inn), restaurants and a performance arts center where you can enjoy Maiko experience in Kyoto.
Gion Shinmonso: http://www.shinmonso.com/english/
Gion Kyo-Ryouri Hanasaki: http://www.gion-hanasaki.com/english.html
Gion Hatanaka: http://www.thehatanaka.co.jp/english/index.html
Kyoto Gion Corner: http://www.kyoto-gioncorner.com/global/en.html
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