IDEAS

Where to Find Geisha in Kanazawa

19.07.2019

Kanazawa City Official, geiko geisha image courtesy the City of Kanazawa

Heard but unseen…

Kanazawa’s mysterious gesiha, or geiko as they are called in west Japan, are much shyer with their presence than in Kyoto.

If you’ve passed through the tea districts during daylight hours, you have likely heard and seen geisha out and about. But, because they don’t often wear makeup during daylight hours, you may not have even noticed them.

With their natural hair done up simply, and adorning traditional kimono and yukata, Kanazawa’s geiko head to the training centers, where outsiders can hear them practice shamisen, taiko and singing.

However, that doesn’t mean that those in full makeup and formal kimono are always out of sight…

Scheduled Events

Geisha Evenings, at Kaikaro Tea House

Geisha Evenings at Kaikaro in Higashi Chaya Kanazawa Japan original image from geishaevenings.jp
At Kaikaro Tea House in Higashi Chaya, a living museum by day, working tea house at night, special “Geisha Evenings” are available to the public in late March to mid April, and October to early November.

The host is the gregarious Lady Baba, proprietor of the tea house. She provides an introduction into the house and geiko culture, dance, taiko and photography sessions, and all entirely in English.

Reserving tickets in advance online grants a small discount. Same day tickets are possible at the full price, pending availability.

dates: select weekdays in spring and autumn
time: 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. (1.5 hours)
cost: 7,150 – 11,000 yen per seat
includes:

  • live performance (3 – 4 songs)
  • taiko and games (audience participation)
  • English-speaking host with Q&A

Kanazawa Geigi Events, various locations

Kanazawa Geigi, Kanazawa Geisha Experience 2019 season official image original image from the Kanazawa Tourism Association
Its lengthy Japanese title translates to “A Journey that Touches the True Art of Kanazawa Geisha.” These events are affordable group experiences with real geigi—another local word for geisha—in all three districts.

During select Saturdays in June and from September to March, guests of the public can enjoy entertainment in the early afternoon. The event includes a Japanese explanation of the tea house, dance, taiko drumming, game, and tea with sweet.

Reservations can be made early. However, payment must be made at least three days in advance to the Kanazawa Tourist Association. Which districts participate varies by date.

dates: select Saturdays in June, September – March
time: 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. (1 hour; doors open at 12:45)
cost: 5,000 yen per person
includes:

  • live performance (3 – 4 songs)
  • taiko and games (audience participation)
  • matcha tea service with sweet

Kanazawa Geigi no Mai, at the Ishikawa Prefectural Music Hall

Dancing geiko (geisha) of Kanazawa's Nishi Chaya District image courtesy the City of Kanazawa
During select days throughout the months of October through March, geisha from each of Kanazawa’s tea districts take turns on the stage at the Kanazawa Music Hall (a.k.a. the Ongakudou) near the station. This is the cheapest ticket to see them perform live. One performance a month also includes a tour of the staging facility. Reservations are strongly encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome pending availability.

English text and audio assistance is available.

dates: select days from October through March
time: 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (1 hour)
cost: 1000 yen per person
includes:

  • live performance (4 – 8 songs)
  • taiko and games (audience participation)
  • English explanations and assistance

Geigi Practice & Experience

Kanazawa geisha practices taiko

Mid-summer months have always been “off-season” for geisha performances. The geigi take a break from make-up and fine kimono for something more relaxed while they prepare for the coming season. Kanazawa’s most recent edition to its many performance opportunities has taken advantage of this time with “Geigi Practice & Experience.”

See geisha as they work during daylight hours, with natural hair and make up and traditional casual kimono. Observe their practice time and join them for some taiko drumming for a very affordable price. Attendance is accepted by application only, through their official website.

dates: select Saturdays in July and August
time: 13:00 – 14:00 (1:00 to 2:00 p.m.; 1 hour)
cost: 1000 yen per person
includes:

  • live performance (4 – 8 songs)
  • taiko and games (audience participation)
  • English assistance available; please note on application

Appointments

As you may already know, private appointments are hard to come by. You must be introduced to the geisha by an already trusted client to become one yourself. Geiko bars are somewhat more lenient, but new guests are still treated cautiously and introduced by current ones. Nevertheless, a more personal experience can be found for those who know where to look…

In Kanazawa House

Geisha performing under a spotlight, at the In Kanazawa House performance event

One of the newest editions to Kanazawa’s geisha performance events is that put on by In Kanazawa House. Originally a traditional dye shop, this beautiful building now hosts limited-seating cultural events. Their “Geisha (Geigi) Performance & Dance Experience” is considerably pricier than others, but the cost covers a kaiseki-style meal of local cuisine, including drinks. Most importantly, it also covers translation assistance while getting to speak face-to-face with the geiko at your table.

Kanazawa geisha chatting at a table with guests, at the In Kanazawa House performance event

Advance reservation and payment by credit card or PayPal is required. The current schedule can be found on their official website. As the venue is still starting up with this and its cooking event, check back frequently for future updates.

dates: varies, see website for schedule
time: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. (2 hours)
cost: 19,800 yen per person
includes:

  • live performance (3 – 5 songs)
  • taiko and games (audience participation)
  • complete meal with drinks
  • face-to-face conversation with geisha
  • translation service (English)

Kikumi, Japanese Fine Dining

Geisha Dancer at Kikumi Bar in Kanazawa, Japan The geiko dancer expresses a moment of longing for a lover gone away…
Kikumi ranks highly for its dining and drinking experiences. But, beyond the exquisite set course meals, Kikumi also offers a unique experience among Kanazawa restaurants. With advance reservation and payment, guests can schedule a geiko performance and interaction with their meal at the bar counter.

Privacy is optional, and guests may offer to share their geiko time with walk-ins or other reservations. (It’s not unusual to offer to split the bill in such cases.) Contact Kikumi directly for details. (Note, reservations and geiko interactions are in Japanese only.)

Kikumi is 250 meters from Kaname Inn Tatemachi.

Special Events

A couple of times in the year, geiko spend time with the public outdoors for special seasonal events.

Setsubun, February 3rd

Photo from Kanazawa Tourism, Geisha throwing beans during Setsubun original image from Kanazawa-Toursim.com
The bean-throwing festival known as Setsubun is an ancient holiday. Families welcome the coming year with several activities meant to ensure good luck. Beans, a symbol of purity in Shinto belief, help cast away evil spirits. These are often first obtained at shrines, where they are thrown to an eager crowds of families on the day of Setsubun, February 3rd.

At Utasu-jinja Shrine, the geiko from the neighboring Higashi Chaya district do these honors. Adorned in black with dried rice in their hair, the geiko approach the shrine one at a time. After a celebratory dance, they spread across an extended elevated stage ready to toss New Year’s beans to the audience. Underneath, a large and excited crowd gathers to catch the beans and photos!

Furumai Sake, Golden Week

Furumai Sake Geisha Event in Nishi Chaya, Kanazawa Japan A wisteria-clad geiko serves sake to the public along with chocolates from her district’s newly opened shop.
At the end of Golden Week, the late spring series of holidays, the geisha of Nishi Chaya come out in full dress to serve free sake to the public. Translating roughly as “Sake of Good Manners,” Furumai Sake is served gratis as an expression of good will and blessings for all.

The event starts early with a morning market for local produce. Sake serving starts around 11:30 and continues for several hours. Additional Shinto festivities continue the following day at the nearby Kasuga Shrine.

Kanazawa Odori, Silver Week

Kanazawa Odori event, photo from hokurikushinkansen-navi.jp original image from Hokuriku Bullet Train Tourism
During a September weekend close to Silver Week, geiko from all three tea districts come together to perform on stage for the “Kanazawa Odori.” The grand event celebrates the geiko’s history in Kanazawa and the traditions of their unique Kaga style, and includes large group dances.

The event runs for four days, with twice-a-day performances for eight total. Seating prices range from 6,700 to 8,700 yen. Some geishe perform for smaller audiences during an evening meal. Tickets for these dining and dancing events range from 12,000 to 15,000 yen.

For updated prices and booking information, please check their official website (Japanese only).


Kaname Inn Tatemachi is only 900 meters from Nishi Chaya and 2 km from Kazue-machi and Higashi Chaya. Our staff will be happy to help arrange any reservations for hotel and hostel guests.

Rachel
Rachel

Half a decade ago Rachel fell off a bus and then fell in love with this traditional-crafts and ice-cream-consuming capital of Japan. Editor and amateur photographer with a penchant for nature and history. Not actually fifty songbirds in a trench coat. (Former penname: Ryann)