What's on in Kyoto 3
Memorable and Affordable "Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening"
Many foreign tourists would expect to meet real maiko in Kyoto. No wonder. But it is quite difficult to get a chance even you are staying in Kyoto all day. One TV program introduced a reality of the world of maiko the other day; many of maiko you would see in Kyoto are not real ones but the tourists who dress up like maiko. This is not all wrong considering how rare it is to meet a real maiko. You must know where and when to meet a real maiko.
By the way, do you know what maiko do? Learning how maiko culture was born will lead to understand what they are. The origin of maiko was a woman or girl who served tea at shrines for visitors. Over time these women started to perform dance and song to attract and entertain customers. Naturally the primary job of maiko is to welcome and entertain customers. Today there are some places that people can experience maiko dance performance (annual spring dance performances, the Gion Corner theatre, special event at department stores, etc.).
However few people know where to go to experience to be entertained by maiko. This is just natural because a person has to take a certain procedure to have such a chance. People can hire maiko in their special party or banquet at ochaya or high class Japanese restaurants. What makes it difficult for many people is the cost. It costs expensive to hire maiko for a private party. For example, if two people have a meal in the high class Japanese restaurant while they are entertained by one maiko for about 2 hours, it will cost over 30,000 yen per person.
More primary, if you can afford to arrange a special night to hire maiko, you need to have a connection with an ochaya. However ochaya's door is not open to the first comer. If you are a new comer, you have to ask someone who already had a connection with the ochaya and get an invitation. This tradition makes it almost impossible for foreign tourists to experience the real world of maiko.
A traditional Japanese restaurant and ryokan inn in front of the southern gate of Yasaka Shrine, Gion Hatanaka is the perfect place for both Japanese and foreigners who wish to experience the world of maiko with affordable price. They started the "Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening" from 2008. It costs 18,000 yen per person. People don't have to stay at their accommodation. Excellent Kyoto cuisine and entertainment by real maiko is covered in the price. Of course no invitation is needed. You will be seated with other groups but this price is quite reasonable considering what you will enjoy and experience. All-you-can-drink style is another attraction of this plan. Kyoto City Tourism Association supports this special plan as a co-organizer.
In a classical Japanese room lit by the light of candles, the host introduces the history of Kagai, the world of maiko in Japanese and English. The two maiko appear on stage and dance performance begins. The music by shamisen (three-string instrument) and song is performed by a geiko (or jikata). Next they explain about maiko's kimono, accessories and hair style, and another dance will follow.
After the performance, maiko will come to your table. All seats are table & chair style which is friendly for foreigners who don't get used to sitting on the floor for a long hours. Enjoy your time with maiko over a cup of sake, chatting, taking a picture with maiko. Hearing their daily life will be interesting (the host will translate questions and answers).
When maiko visit all tables, this is the time to start Ozashiki Asobi, or traditional party games. Ozashiki asobi is easy games that everyone can enjoy. The game itself is very simple but people enjoy it very much and the whole room will be filled with laughter. If you think maiko live in very strict and serious world, you would be surprised to know how friendly and cheerful they are. They are such entertainers with hospitality.
The two-hour show ends after the photo session time. Authentic Kyoto cuisine, free-flowing drinks, photo session with maiko... This is one of the most memorable moments you would have in Kyoto. If you can afford, try to stay in this traditional Japanese ryokan inn. Over-night stay plan including the "Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening" is available.
"Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening" : http://www.kyoto-maiko.jp/
Venue: Gion Hatanaka: http://www.thehatanaka.co.jp/
Time & Date: Mon., Wed., Fri., Sat.; 18:00-20:00
Fee: 18,000 yen (tax included); Major credit cards accepted.
Capacity: 40 people
The show will not be held if the number of customer is less than 10 people.
Visit their website for show schedule: http://www.kyoto-maiko.jp/reservation/reservation.cgi