Kyoto’s Gion District, famous for its maiko-san, may have the impression of being closed off with signs that read things like, “No first time customers!” And for places that do allow new customers, it can be difficult to go with small children, but with a little ingenuity, you can increase your chances of meeting a real maiko-san greatly. You will see many women dressed in kimono walking around Kyoto and may think you have seen a maiko-san, but these days there are many tourists dressed as maiko-san, so we will give you tips on how to meet a genuine maiko-san.
Your best bet for seeing real maiko-san in Kyoto is Hanamikoji Street in the evening!
The upper part of Gion is the largest of the multiple districts in Kyoto where maiko-san may be seen. The main street of the upper part of Gion is Hanamikoji. Of course we can’t say with a 100% guarantee, but you are highly likely to meet maiko-san here.
Evening is the best time to go! This is because in the early evening you are more likely to see maiko-san or their apprentices, geiko-san, walking in the streets.
If you can’t meet maiko-san, don’t be discouraged, because just enjoying the townscape of Hanamikoji is sure to be a great memory of your trip to Kyoto. With its cobblestone streets and traditional Kyoto townhouses, it is a very photogenic spot. Go to Hanamikoji with the aim of taking pictures with your kids and enjoying the view of the scenery, then meeting a maiko-san would just be the icing on the cake!
If you happen to be in Kyoto when there’s an event, you are LUCKY!
If you happen to visit the Gion district of Kyoto at a time when some special event is happening, your chance of seeing maiko-san will be increased greatly! Here are some of the bigger events which happen there.
Shigyoshiki (Opening ceremony)
This event happens every year on either January 7 or January 9. Dressed in proper attire, maiko-san offer New Year greetings to those in attendance.
Setsubun (Holiday for the end of winter)
Around February 2 or 3, at either Kitano Tenmangu or Yasaka Shrine, maiko-san can be seen participating in the Setsubun festivities. Setsubun is the day before spring begins and people typically do mamemaki (bean scattering) to cleanse away any evil from the previous year and welcome good fortune. At this event you can see maiko-san participating in traditional dances and doing mamemaki.
This event takes place on August 1. This event dates back to long ago. Maiko-san and geiko-san, dressed in their formal attire, give gifts to show gratitude to those of have supported the maiko-san and geiko-san.
This event on December 13 is the final event of the year for the Gion District. Maiko-san go around to different shops and people who have supported them throughout the year to express their gratitude and ask their favor in the upcoming year.
If you meet a maiko-san…
When you finally meet a real maiko-san, naturally you may want to take a photo with them. However, it is poor manners to do so. When one thinks of Kyoto, they may think of maiko-san, but they are not characters or mascots. Therefore, please refrain from asking maiko-san to take photos together. If you do decide to take photos of them, please be discreet.
Also, when you see maiko-san walking through the streets, they are most likely on their way to a dinner party where they will entertain guests. As they may be in a hurry, you wouldn’t want to distract them and cause them to be late to their engagement.
If you do happen to see a maiko-san, we hope that you will just enjoy that chance as something you can experience only in Kyoto. Of course it’s disappointing that you can’t get a photo to keep the memory, but if you are able to see something here that you can’t see in your own country, we are sure it will stick in your child’s memory as something special.
If you want to meet and talk with maiko-san…
Even though you went to Hanamikoji you didn’t get to see a maiko-san… Maybe you caught a glimpse of maiko-san, but you would like to chat with one… If either of these is the case, there is somewhere you can go to make that wish come true.
Yasaka Kaikan Gion Corner
At Gion Corner you can see the seven traditional performing arts performed by maiko-san. The seven different forms of entertainment include Kyo-mai dance, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, koto (a traditional instrument), gagaku court music, Kyogen theater, and bunraku puppet theater. As you can see all seven of these performed in one sitting, you are sure to have a great time.
570-2 Minami-gawa Gion-cho Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi
Kamishichiken Maiko Beer Garden
From July through September, during the hot summer months, you can visit this beer garden. Families with children can be seen dining here as well.
There are many types of seats where you can enjoy eating and drinking, and you will be guided by the number of people booked, such as a garden where you can feel the outside wind, a cool room, and a pond side seat.
You will have a chance to talk with maiko san and geiko san! They are wearing yukata and come to greet each seat. It is quite an experience! Also, you will get their business cards called “Senja-Fuda.”
742 Mamori-cho Imadegawa-dori Shichihonmatsu Nishi-iru Kamigyo-ku Kyoto-shi
http://www.maiko3.com/beergarden.html (Japanese notation)
There is a bar in Kamishichiken. It’s for adults only, so if you would like to go, please use our Kyoto with Kids Babysitting services.
It is a cozy bar and you can meet maiko san at relatively reasonable prices. It is a shop that welcomes even first time customers, but if you want to meet maiko san, please make a reservation.
714-8 Shinsei-cho Kamigyo-ku Kyoto-shi
https://www.kitano-shiki.com/ (Japanese notation)
To enjoy a nightlife in Kyoto
Some people may think Kyoto is famous for maiko-san, but actually there are few opportunities to meet real maiko-san in Kyoto. If you would like to go out at night and visit an establishment where you can meet maiko-san or even just walk around Gion in hopes of catching a glimpse of maiko-san, please use our Kyoto with Kids Babysitting service.
How to access Gion Hanamikoji
- From Kyoto Station: by City bus 100,110 or 206 to “Gion” bus stop
- From Shijo-Kawaramachi, Shijo-Karasuma: by City bus 46, 201, 203, or 207 to “Gion” bus stop
- By Keihan Electric Railway: soon from “Gion Shijo” Station
- By Hankyu Railway: 5 minutes on foot from “Kyoto Kawaramachi” Station