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Audley Traveler

Image of a Geisha

By far the best way to spot the now elusive Geisha is to take an evening walk around the Gion district in Kyoto. Meet our guides, Duncan and Izumi, and find out about the guided walks that they offer.

Geisha in Japan.

Geisha in Japan.

"Walking round the maze of wooden terraced teahouses and okiya in Gion, seeing Geisha and Maiko (if we are lucky!), is a great way to take in the old and the new."

Duncan Flett, Kyoto Guide

The image of a Geisha shuffling down a lantern lit, cobbled street dressed in a fine silk kimono and teetering on wooden geta sandals is one of the most iconic, yet perhaps most misunderstood, symbols of Japan.

Geisha in Gion - Kyoto's Geisha districtBy far the best way to spot the now elusive Geisha is to take an evening walk around the Gion district in Kyoto with Duncan Flett and his wife Izumi Texidor-Hirai. Duncan and Izumi, both half Japanese and half British by birth, have lived in Kyoto for many years. They have studied traditional arts such as tea ceremony, ikebana flower arranging and kimono, as well as learning more about the history and culture surrounding the Geisha of Kyoto and enjoy the opportunity to share this knowledge and passion with Kyoto visitors. Working exclusively for Audley they have now conducted over 200 ‘Geisha Walks’ and still receive outstanding feedback from our clients. Here they tell us a little more about their evening walks out and about with Audley clients:

Few professions are shrouded in as much mystery as that of the Geisha. As a result you would be hard-pressed to find an occupation that is so misunderstood in every corner of the world, including Japan.

Many times on a Geisha Walk, we'll be walking with a couple through the narrow streets and alleyways of Gion and someone (usually, it has to be said, the husband) will turn to me and ask me if these ladies are high-class call girls.

Of course, they are not, and I am more than happy to explain the true nature of the Geisha industry, pointing out celebrated tea houses (ochaya) as we go along.

Our walk focuses on the Gion Geisha district, but there are four other hanamachi (literally “flower town”, an area where Geisha live and work) in Kyoto. Four are within walking distance of each other and the other district, Kamishichiken, is located in the northwest of Kyoto.

Walking round the maze of wooden terraced teahouses and okiya in Gion, seeing Geisha and Maiko (if we are lucky!), is a great way to take in the old and the new, the fascinating contrast of modern Japanese society and the hanamachi where some traditions and practices have remained unchanged for centuries. 

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