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 has six of its own geisha districts, also known as hanamachi (Flower towns) – some with its original Edo architecture. Sadly, a number of these districts are dying out but the good news is that others are still thriving. Here we have listed the 6 Flower towns of Tokyo.
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 largely exclusive to Japanese people.
The actual geisha region 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) where geishas entertain. Such tea houses are off limits to foreigners but there can be a way around this by arranging a dinner reservation at one of them through the concierge at your hotel. A successful reservation is by no means guaranteed though.
The Hachioji District
Geisha in the Hachioji District numbered around 200 before World War 2 but apparently today there are no more than 20. This is partly because most of the ozashiki restaurants and teahouses where they usually perform have closed down. Another contributing factor is a shortage of young Japanese women signing up for maiko training.
There used to be a sake tasting event hosted by geisha’s annually where Westerners were welcome. The event still takes place but only once every couple of years instead of yearly as before. One might occasionally spot a geisha at night as she is making her way to an engagement but such sightings are rare.
The Kagurazaka District
The geisha area of Kagurazake, with its beautiful narrow cobblestone roads and Edo architecture, sits just outside Edo Castle. It’s been a highly popular geisha entertainment area from the old Edo days up until a few decades ago. Since then the surrounding area has 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 are 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 through the streets of Mukojima and you will fairly frequently see them walking in pairs or small groups to meet their clients.
The Shimbashi District
The Shimbashi district is a business area and sadly 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 simply 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 by means of the local ‘Geisha Time’ tours.
Get more information about these tours at nihonbashi-info.jp.