It’s been a sad week for all of us in Kyoto as our beloved Maiko-san Umiechie of Kamishichiken has announced her early retirement. But we were lucky enough to join her for one last tea session before bidding her goodbye.
Here is a little history lesson on the flower and the willow world.
In Kyoto one of the oldest cities in Japan also home to quite a number of Maiko & Geiko who are traditional art performers, they carry this tradition on with pride even during this modern era. It takes many years of hard practice as an apprentice (Maiko) before one becomes a Geiko and they start training as young as 15 years old by local tea houses run by an Oka-san (mother) who are mostly former Geiko(s) themselves.
They are often mistaken as “prostitutes” which is untrue due to the inaccuracy displayed by media circulating around.
A Maiko or a Geiko are considered as Japan’s celebrated and most respected celebrities even till today, in fact their role is equivalent to your favourite celebrity trending on Twitter or Instagram except with more class!
This cultured lifestyle is considered not so attractive among the younger generation as it reflects the olden day’s practices meaning one has limited contact to the outside world, like restricted usage of mobile phones/ social media which currently plays a huge role for modern day people therefore it isn’t a life decision one can easily commit to unless they are very serious about it.
It’s hours of dance and instrument practices, learning the olden language and tending to reputable guest’s dinner/ drinking parties daily.
Guest playing traditional game “Konpira Fune Fune” with a maiko
Not much is known exactly about their mysterious world and practices till this very day as limited amount of outsiders are given the privilege to access behind the scenes, they are a very close knitted community and many things are kept mum among themselves. But slowly they are opening up and changing with the times which includes allowing outsiders (travellers) to enjoy a casual tea session with them.
A maiko/ geiko’s namecard sticker is called a “Senjafuda”, It’s said to bring wealth & luck to the receiver hence businessmen keep them in their wallets.
Places like Kamishichiken Beer Garden is a great hang out spot with friends, enjoy beers, finger foods and mingle around with Maikos/ Geikos in a casual manner, that way you can also get to know them and make future booking for their services by calling up their respective tea houses!
By Kyoto Bus Route 50 or 101 ⇒ From Kyoto Station ⇒ To Kitano Tenmangu-mae Bus Stop or Kamishichiken Bus Stop ⇒3 min. walking
Writer: Arisa Chow アリサ・チョウ
A girl who left her heart and soul in Japan, with too much thoughts in that little head of hers which she shares frequently on www.arisachow.com