Tokyo Geisha Districts
Geisha are most commonly thought to be found in Kyoto, and for the most part, that is true. Tokyo, with its bright neon lights and technological advancements, pales in comparison to the old capital (Kyoto) when it comes to geisha culture. Nevertheless, Tokyo City has six of its own geisha districts, also known as hanamachi (Flower Towns) – some with its original Edo architecture still intact. Sadly, a number of these districts are dying out, but the good news is that some others are still thriving. Here we have listed the 6 Flower towns of Tokyo.
- The Asakusa District
- The Hachioji District
- The Kagurazaka District
- The Mukojima District
- The Shimbashi District
- The Yoshicho District
The Asakusa District
Asakusa has been a highly famous entertainment district since the Edo Period. It’s well known by locals and tourists alike for the Sensoji Temple, the food, and of course, geisha. Even though there are a fair amount of foreigners who live and work in Asakusa, geisha entertainment within the district is still mostly exclusive.
The actual geisha district sits behind the Sensoji Temple and consists of narrow roads lined with traditional Edo style architecture. It’s well hidden and has traditional teahouses (ochaya) from where geishas entertain. These tea houses are off-limits to foreigners, but there is a way around this by arranging a dinner reservation at one of these tea houses through the concierge at your hotel. Getting a successful booking is by no means guaranteed, though.
The Hachioji District
Geisha in the Hachioji District numbered around 200 before World War 2, but today there is estimated to be fewer than 20. This is in part because most of the ozashiki restaurants and teahouses where they usually perform have closed down. Another contributing factor is that there is a shortage of young Japanese women signing up for maiko training.
There used to be an annual sake tasting event hosted by geisha’s where Westerners are welcome. The event still takes place but only once every couple of years instead of yearly as before. Still, one might even occasionally spot a geisha at night as she is making her way to an engagement, but such sightings are rare.
The Kagurazaka District
The Kagurazake Geisha District, with its beautiful narrow cobblestone roads and Edo architecture, sits just outside Edo Castle. It’s been a highly popular geisha entertainment region from the old Edo days up until a few decades ago. In more recent times, however, it’s become a well known and busy shopping district. Luckily, these traditional Japanese entertainers are still in high demand here, especially at the luxury kaiseki restaurants where they entertain clientele.
The Mukojima District
If you ever find yourself in the Northeast part of the city, then this is definitely the place to visit because Mukojima is undoubtedly the largest and most famous of all the Tokyo Geisha districts. Walk down the streets of Mukojima, and you will frequently see them walking in pairs or small groups to meet their clients.
The Shimbashi District
In recent years Shimbashi had become more of a business district, whereas before, it was full of geisha. As a result, geisha entertainment in the area is in rapid decline because the traditional ozashiki restaurants where they perform are continuously closing down. Spotting one of these Japanese entertainers is, therefore, rare and is probably the least popular of the districts on this list.
The Yoshicho District
Nihonbashi Yoshicho, otherwise known as Yoshicho, is a thriving geisha district situated in the heart of Tokyo. And strangely enough, most foreigners and even a lot of Japanese do not know about it. The best part is that visitors to Japan who would like to play interactive games and listen to them play traditional instruments can easily do so through the local ‘Geisha Time’ tours.
Get more information about these tours at nihonbashi-info.jp.