Little holds as much mystery and intrigue for both visitors to Japan and the Japanese people alike than the Geisha. As iconic as Mount Fuji, the samurai and sushi, for hundreds of years Geishas have existed in a closed world with a complex history shrouded in secrecy and the culture is still flourishing today.
In the past, Geisha districts existed in all of Japan’s major cities, but today only a few remain as reminders and guardians of traditional Japanese culture. While in Kyoto, Ty and I caught quite a few glimpses of Geishas as they made their way to work in the traditional Japanese tea houses dotted all around Kyoto’s ancient Gion district, Japan’s most famous Geisha district. I knew very little about Geishas before visiting Japan, having only been exposed to their world through pop culture such as Memoirs of a Geisha, but I made it my mission to learn more about these mysterious women.
In English, Geisha literally translates to artist. Contrary to popular belief, Geisha’s are not courtesans. They are entertainers skilled in every aspect of traditional Japanese culture, as well as the art forms of dance, music, hospitality, conversation and games. Even today, it is a very prestigious occupation for Japanese girl, and many years are spent in training to achieve the title of Geisha.
With each glimpse, I become more and more struck by how beautiful the traditional Geisha attire is. The colours and fabrics and the perfect way in which their hair and makeup is worn caught my eye, and I was quick to take a few photos. The patterns of the kimonos were different and beautiful among each of the women I saw, and the obi (the sash worn around the waist) were tied so intricately, I wondered how they could all look so equally perfect. Here are a few photographs of some of my favourite glimpses.
Japan’s culture, traditions and history were such wonderful things for us to learn of while visiting Japan, and while the Geisha aspect still holds so much mystery to me, I was fortunate enough to learn a little of what I did by talking to two Geisha girls on my way back from breakfast one morning.
Certainly, much of Japan’s history and cultural traditions are best learnt from the Japanese people themselves, and Ty and I were so lucky to have experienced true Japanese hospitality in a traditional Japanese guesthouse during our time in Kyoto. I will share that experience with you all next time!
Have you ever visited Japan? Do you enjoy learning about and being exposed to traditional elements and historical cultures while travelling?
Thanks so much for reading! XO
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