Dinner with a Geisha

The bestselling novel and recent film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha has turned a lot of attention to Kyoto, Japan. Johnny Jet describes his exploration of Kyoto and the night he met a Geisha in his article, <a href="http://www.frommers.com/deals/car_bus_rail/article.cfm?dealID=CARBUSRAIL&articleID=3332&t=Where’s Johnny Jet: In Kyoto for Frommers.

“Kyoto is Japan’s seventh largest city (with 1.4 million residents) and widely regarded as the prettiest. Kyoto welcomes 43 million tourists a year; surprisingly, only half a million of those come from outside Japan. One reason Kyoto is so popular with visitors is because it has 17 World Heritage Sites (only Rome has more).

At 7 p.m. we were dropped off in the small, famous district of Kyoto called Gion. This is the area where geishas and maikos (geisha apprentices) have lived since the 1600s. We walked down a quiet, charming street until our guide found the door she was looking for. She knocked, and immediately the door opened. I felt like I was entering someone’s house, but instead it was a private banquet room.

After the hosts took our drink orders, we got the thrill of our trip. Ever so quietly a sliding door opened. There they were: a geisha and a maiko, kneeling with our drinks next to them. Their exposed skin was painted white (except for a small section of their neck); their hair and makeup were perfect, and they wore beautiful kimonos. They spoke very little English, but were almost as interested in our lives as we were with theirs.

We learned that it takes only 30 minutes to get ready for the evening, and they put their makeup on themselves. Yes, they both read the book Memoirs of a Geisha. Both agreed it was not an accurate portrayal of today’s geisha life. They said, however, that maybe it was like that in the old days.

During dinner they entertained us. As the night progressed they taught us their songs, dances and games. By the end of the night we were all dancing and having a great time. Everything was so simple. There was nothing extravagant (besides their clothes). There was nothing high tech. It was just a night filled with good, old-fashioned fun and laughs.”