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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spot the Geiko: Gion, Kyoto {Japan}

Happy Tuesday Y'all. 

Well, another Tuesday is upon us and that means Travel Tuesday. I usually like to travel back and share travels I made in the past, but I really want to continue sharing Japan with y'all. 

Today I'm going to share Gion, Kyoto with y'all. I'll be honest with you guys- six months ago, I didn't even know Gion existed. It wasn't on my travel radar until I read Chelsea's blog post on 'Looking for Geishas in Gion'. After I read that post, I knew I needed to travel to Kyoto and I needed to find me some Geishas. 

Mini History Lesson: Gion is a district of Kyoto, developed in the Middle Ages, in front of Yasaka Shrine. It was built to help the needs of travelers and visitors to the shrine. Eventually it became one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in Japan. {Source

The thing I love about Gion is it's all comprised of these wooden tea houses. Once you step onto that street, it's like you're back in time. At least, if you zone out the cars and the tourists with their cameras or the few neon signs. I loved seeing the paper lanterns and the narrow houses along the street. If you have a pretty penny to spend on dinner I guess you could go inside these tea houses. As Matt and I were on a budget, we opted to just walk up and down the street. 

*Helpful Hint: The geishas in the Gion area do not refer to themselves as geisha- instead they use the term geiko or maiko (geiko apprentice). Geisha means "artist" or "person of the arts" and geiko means "a child of the arts" or "a woman of art". Geikos are professional entertainers who attend guests during meals and other occasions. They are trained in various traditional Japanese arts (dance, music, communication, etc). {Source}

When we went- there were tons of tourists waiting around with their cameras to see if they could see any geikos. I was surprised to see so many people as I didn't think this would be all that popular… but I was wrong. 

Matt and I immediately started walking down the street to see if we could spot any geikos. About five minutes later, we saw three come out of a tea house and hop into taxis. I tried to get a picture, but people were in the way. It was pretty crazy because there was a swarm of tourists around the taxis just snapping away. It really felt like we were all paparazzi. I have to be honest it was kinda exhilarating- in a creepy- should I be doing this- kinda way. 

We walked up and down a few more times, but didn't see anymore. So we decided to turn down an alley and just walk. We were the only ones on this side alley, and we were just chatting when we saw this geiko heading down the street! I'll be honest- I might have squealed a little and told Matt to get the camera. As you can see, she was booking it because we couldn't get a clear picture. We were pretty respectful- we stayed on our side of the street, and just took a couple of pictures. 

 After that, I was so excited, and I was good to go. I saw four geikos- got a picture of one- done and done. So we headed back to the main street, and bam! Two more geikos! What!!!!! Again, we were respectful and didn't get in their faces. {You'd be surprised at how many other tourists where like crazy people with their cameras.} 

Absolutely beautiful. These women are so beautiful. Their hair, clothes- I love everything about seeing them. Okay- so now I had seen five- good to go! But wait- one more! 

This geiko was my favorite- she smiled at me :) {That's actually a big deal because most of these women don't appreciate tourists standing outside their work taking pictures… can you blame them.} 

Okay, so for real we were done, but as we were leaving we saw another three. So I think the 5:45-6:30 time is the time to go. I think they are just getting to their tea houses at this time, so you should be able to see them. 

I think you should at least walk down the street, but try to be respectful. There have been more and more complaints about tourists acting like ruthless paparazzi, so make sure you don't get in their faces.  We felt kinda weird. It was exciting, but a very weird experience. Like I wanted to get a picture, but at the same time it was strange to be taking pictures of these women. 

 I'm going to plug the En Tea Experience one more time. We did the service right before walking the street, and it actually gave us a little more insight into the geiko lifestyle. The geikos study the way of tea during their training, so the two studies intersected. It's all very interesting… at least to this history major. 

This really was a highlight of my trip- even if I did feel a little strange semi-stalking these geikos. I think it's a worthwhile experience, but maybe not up some of y'alls alley. 

Have any of you tried your hand at being a paparazzi? 

Basic Information: 
Cost: Free
Location: If you are on Shijo-dori and looking at Yaska Shrine, turn right on Hanamikoji dori Street. 
Time: Open whenever. We were there from 5:45-6:30 and it seems like the perfect time. 

{For more information- click here

Travel Tuesday

{Linking up with Bonnie

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- Alex