Whether we’ve read it or not, the 1997 novel Memoirs of a Geisha is a story we’re all familiar with. After all, the book not only became a bestseller, it served as the basis for a film that went on to earn six Academy Award nominations.
What few Westerners know, however, is what a geisha actually is. According to dictionary.com, it’s “a Japanese woman trained as a professional singer, dancer and companion of men.” And according to a review on Amazon.com, it’s a “rigorous” profession.
While the geisha culture isn’t as prevalent as it used to be, it does still exist in certain parts of Japan. One such place is beautifully balanced Kyoto, which was the country’s capital for more than 1,000 years.
But if you think you can just take it all in by walking around the geisha districts of Kyoto, think again.
“There is no guarantee you will see a geisha,” says Ms. Hisae Komatsu, our Japan tour specialist, “unless you are with a guide like ours.”
Our guide is one of the foremost Western experts on geisha — a man who has lived in Kyoto for more than 20 years, was married to a former geisha, studies Japanese arts and is a lecturer on Geisha Studies at Kansai University.
Those who have experienced our Discover Japan in Luxury tour understand exactly the value such as guide brings to the geisha portion of the Kyoto experience.
“The travelers I’ve talked to are blown away by the elegance and beauty of it all,” says Hisae. “It’s such a unique experience. You not only get to have a conversation with a real geisha, you have access to someone who can answer any question about a geisha’s life.”