The centuries-old geisha districts of Kanazawa, along with its samurai towns, castles, and Japanese gardens, attract a fair amount of visitors. The city is often referred to as ‘Little Kyoto’ because of the strong geisha culture and high concentration of ochaya’s (teahouses), where these Japanese entertainers perform their hostess duties. Below we will explore the three districts in more detail.
- The Higashi Chaya-Gai District
- The Nishi Chaya-Gai District
- The Kazue-Machi District
The Higashi Chaya-Gai District
In the eastern part of Kanazawa, near the Asano-Gawa River, sits the largest of the three districts – Higashi Chaya-Gai. It’s home to the Shima Teahouse Museum with its luxurious gold leaf-covered tea room. The building was constructed in 1820 and received the honor of being a designated Important Cultural Property.
Many other tea houses in the area are open to the public, and should you get tired of tea; you will be glad to know that there are quite a few coffee and novelty shops too. Geishas are also often seen in the early evenings as they hastily make their way through the narrow alleyways to their appointments.
But the best part about Higashi is the geisha performances held each year, which are aimed specifically at tourists. The shows are in English and are held three nights a week over three weeks twice every year. It includes an educational lecture by a real geisha followed by traditional songs and dances.
Visit their website for ticket prices and when the next shows take place.
The Nishi Chaya-Gai District
Nishi Chaya-Gai sits near the Ninja Temple in the western part of the city. One of the first things you will notice there is that there are many tea shops. These are the same tea shops that stood throughout the Edo period, so most of them are closed to the public to preserve them.
Another attraction is the Nishi Chaya Shiryokan Museum, where you can view various items from the Edo Period.
The Kazue-Machi District
Should you wish to see geisha in an original centuries-old setting without the hordes of fellow tourists, then you will find no better place than Kazue-Machi. It runs along the southern end of the Asano River and is the smallest and quietest of the three Kanazawa geisha districts.
The roads are incredibly narrow and lined with three-story Edo-style architecture. And apart from its many tea shops, the district is also famous for its traditional Japanese restaurants. The best time to visit Kazue-Machi would be during the cherry blossom season because the whole place looks incredible, and seeing geisha walk around with pink petals on the ground makes it even more magical.