Many people misunderstand the purpose of a geisha and think the name is synonymous with escort, call girl or prostitute. Not so. In fact, a geisha is a highly trained hostess who knows how to anticipate her guests’ every desire. Her primary responsibility is to keep the party moving and she is taught specific skills by which to do that. The geisha is highly-refined, artistic and clever.
In the 1920’s, there were thousands of geishas in Japan and they were viewed as the highest of celebrities. Now, although there are fewer, the geisha is still a part of the culture for most of the older Japanese population.
For example, many important business meetings in Japan are often held at geisha houses. It is a strong symbol of financial success and a gesture of good will to hold a geisha party. Even though the gathering might be all business-oriented and high-level deals might be taking place, the paying host wants his guests to enjoy themselves and experience the world of flowers and willows. The secondary gain, of course, is that sponsoring a geisha party makes it clear that he is cultured, refined and well-connected.
Geishas are not booked directly; one must go through the okasan of her geisha house or the sponsor can call any number of teahouses where geishas entertain. It is also not easy for a foreigner to engage in hosting a geisha party of any kind.
Hosting a geisha party is not for the average business person. Geisha party prices generally cost around $200-$300 per person, plus tips and a charge per geisha. A geisha dinner can cost around $500 per Geiko (geisha) or Maiko (geisha in training) and there is an additional cost if you would like an interpreter. Of course, the price of the meal is extra.
The cost is also determined by the amount of people in your group. We could not get specific prices from the geisha or teahouses as posting them would be considered improper and tacky. Most geisha experiences are by invitation-only.
Another big misunderstanding is that geishas provide sex as a part of the entertainment. The truth is that years ago, during the war, there were “geisha girls”, who worked as prostitutes. However, that has long since passed.
True geishas are actually among the most attentive and talented entertainers in the world. They pour tea or sake, sing, play musical instruments, tell stories, give flirtations, can talk about any subject and provide games – all the while remaining untouchable and unattainable. They are the epitome of feminine perfection.
The Japanese government has strict rules about geishas including: their attire, where they can entertain and their hours. Geishas are not allowed to entertain individually – such as engaging in one-on-ones. This may strike you as odd, but the reason for all of the rules is to make sure registered geishas are not taking business away from the registered prostitutes. That enables the government to ensure that both groups are able to make money.
However, there is the possibility of becoming sexually involved with a client, if the Geisha chooses, but never in the spirit of a one-night stand. She must go through a specific ceremony to be with her danna and when she is ready to end it, she must go through another ceremony that is much like divorce.
Since this is almost a secret society, it was difficult to ascertain interior photographs and prices for specific geisha and teahouses. Instead, we will show the five different ways geishas can be experienced and the associated ballpark costs.
5. Maiko Studios: Fake Maiko
Beware of running into a fake maiko (geisha apprentice), as there are several sightseeing spots that will give tourists a maiko-makeover. For a mere $100, you can receive the total maiko experience, complete with photographs. You might have to fight off the paparazzi though, because seeing maikos on the street is not all that common.
4. Gion Odori: Geisha Event
For those tourists and citizens who can not afford any of the above, there are geisha events planned, such as the Gion Odori Dance Performance which is held each year at the Gion Kaikan Theater. This dance is held twice a day during November 1 – 10 and is put on by the Gion Higashi geisha district. Other popular geisha events include daily performances at the Gion Corner, which is a local theater especially meant for tourists. In April, the Miyako Odori offers performances by both maiko and geiko. Events such as these generally cost around $40.
3. Club Ōkitsu Kyoto: Geisha Dinner
Club Okitsu is well-reviewed and offers a great way to get acquainted with parts of the Japanese culture, such as tea ceremonies and geisha dinners. The club also offers kimono dressing, which would be included in the package you select. Typically the cost for a geisha meal will run between $100-$300. Tack on the $500 price per geisha or maiko (in training) and you can see why all-things-geisha are generally experienced only by the elite.
2. Ichiriki Chaya: Geisha House
This particular ochaya (teahouse) is one of the most famous and most exclusive in Kyoto. It is very close to the Hanami-koji street from Gion, which is the geisha district. There is a guard at the door to make sure only patrons get in, as it offers the ultimate in privacy for its guests. Ichiriki Chaya opened its doors over 300 years ago but it was originally named Yorozuya (万屋) and was changed later.
This teahouse became famous because the leader of Forty-seven Ronin, Oishi Kuranosuke, spent time hiding from spies. The story later became a famous Kabuki play. This is also the location where the book, Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden, took place. We understand Arthur never stepped foot inside, however, as it is an invitation-only teahouse.
As mentioned earlier, hosting a geisha party will cost about $300 per person, plus tips and a geisha charge of about $500 per geisha or maiko. Most formal teas can use one geisha, however the larger your group, the more you will want additional geishas to ensure everything goes smoothly.
1. Geisha Date: One-on-one
I know we said that having a one-on-one with a geisha is not possible, but with the right amount of money – almost anything is possible, right? To come face-to-face and become mesmerized into the world of the flower and willow is possible. However, it will pay to have the right connections. If staying in a five-star hotel, it is likely the concierge can arrange an evening for you. However, this does not mean the geisha will comply with or offer sexual favors. Although, it does mean that you will spend the evening with one of the most educated, talented and beautiful women in the area, as geisha’s training starts when they are 15 years old. They are highly-skilled at ensuring their guests enjoyment and pleasure.
There are a couple potential drawbacks to having a one-on-one with one of these startling beauties. Unfortunately, their training focuses only on the Japanese language. So generally, they do not communicate in any other language, which means you may need a translator if you have any interest in communicating. Secondly, the price will be sky-high. Although we could not confirm specific prices, we are told by one of our most reputable sources that the price of hiring a private geisha will cost upwards of $2,000 per hour.
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