Geisha Beer Garden Experience in Kamishichiken, Kyoto
Latest posts by Yuko Kuriyama (see all)
- Geisha Beer Garden Experience in Kamishichiken, Kyoto - 2017/07/24
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A Great Place to Start a Geisha Experience in Kyoto
It takes approximatly 30 minutes from Kyoto station by the bus to get to Kamishichiken, an area a little away from the central city area and it is less busy and relaxed neighborhoods with many unexplored sights and shops to foreign visitors. The area is well known for having the oldest kagai (hanamachi, or geisha district) in Kyoto. To many people including Kyoto residents, meeting geisha or maiko and have a chat with them is a rare experience. However, if you visit Kamishichiken Beer Garden, geisha experience is possible and affordable. A Beer Garden is an open-air beer restaurant which opens for business only in summertime and is one of Japan’s summertime staples. In the last few years, stylish new beer gardens are popping up in Kyoto and some pre-existing old ones are redecorated to keep up with the competition. But only a few beer gardens feature geisha or maiko. In addition to its 50 years of history as a beer garden in the oldest kagai in Kyoto, the venue is a kaburenjo theater where geisha and maiko actually come and practice and perform traditional dances and all of these elements make Kamishichiken Beer Garden one of a kind, worth visiting beer garden of all in Kyoto. So, here we go, Kamishichiken Beer Garden featuring GEISHA and MAIKO is now open!
A Casual Geisha Beer Garden Experience Perfect for Begginers
The entrance of Kamishichiken Beer Garden
My friend and I made a reservation for 6 pm. It was still bright however two-thirds of the seats of the entire beer garden were already occupied and atmosphere was pretty lively. This beer garden is very popular among domestic tourists and locals such as Kamishichiken ochaya ( a tea house where geisha entertain patrons) patrons and some make reservations as early as one year prior for a good seat.
Geisha takes turn dropping by tables for a chat that lasts for several minutes. This is what the geisha beer garden experience is all about! You get to talk to geisha and take pictures with her in an authentic Kyoto atmosphere.
We were seated at a table indoors, but I asked the server for a garden table if possible when any became available later in the evening. Soon after we were seated, another server came with a “Starter Pack”(￥2,000) It includes one beer and small appetizers (they offer options for drinks other than beer). This is a mandatory minimum order. After this, you can make additional orders from the menu (for menus, please click on “menu” pdf listed at the end of this article)
Appetizers from left, edamame, tofu with soy sauce, and simmered pumpkin
The first Geisha who came to our table was Ichitaka. A very pretty, sweet geisha I almost fell in love with! For the beer garden, geisha wear Yukata, a light summer kimono and wear more natural makeup to match the garment. They look just as stunning without that distinctive white makeup.
As the night falls, lanterns create a romantic, picturesque atmosphere throughout the beer garden. About an hour later, the nice server I asked for garden seats came to move us to a table in the garden area where it has more “beer garden” feel to it and we enjoyed the outdoor atmosphere with another round of cold beer. At first, we did not know what to expect from our first geisha beer garden experience, but it turns out GREAT.
In case of rain, the roof will close so the party goes on
These are the stickers geisha gives you when she comes to your table, these are called “hanameishi”. Each geisha have their own name stickers to use in lieu of a business card. We stayed for two hours and two maikos and two geishas came to our table for a chat and snaps (one geiko did not leave a name sticker though).
Kamishichiken Beer Garden opened its doors 50 years ago and I have known about this beer garden for many years, but somehow never had a chance to be there and I kind of regret it now that I know what a great experience it is, to be able to actually interact with geisha in person with such an affordable price (average spending per customer: ¥5,000-6,000 according to multiple restaurant info sites) in such a casual atmosphere. Geisha and Maiko absolutely gorgeous and professional entertainers. I don’t mean boring commercialized way, but very pleasant and sweet way. I just loved the way she elegantly moves, talks, and smiles for the camera. All the guests seemed enchanted by her beauty and gracious manners.
| Tips for Maximizing Your Geisha Experience at Kanishichiken Beer Garden
-I did not see any foreign tourists the entire evening I was there. Like I said earlier,
this beer garden is less visited by foreign travelers and with that in mind, it is probably best to make a reservation via a hotel concierge or a Japanese-speaker, just to be sure.
-Tables are set in four sections on the premises: two indoor rooms, one in the garden and
one by the pond. You could make seat preference requests, however it is determinded by availability.
-Tables in the garden area has more beer garden atomosphere but it could be hot.
Air- conditioned indoor seats might be more comfortable for some people.
-No need to leave tips just like all the other establishments in Japan.
-Please be gracious when a geisha or maiko comes to your table as she is gracious to
Kyoto Etiquette Guide AKIMAHEN (Don’t in Kyoto dialect)
For Advanced Geisha Experience
To enjoy geisha experience to the fullest, ochaya tea house is the place to be. It is a traditional Japanese wood townhouse specifically built for geisha and geiko experience where you will be entertained by a geisha through traditional singing, dancing, and fun games while enjoying Kyoto cuisine and drinks. It is a traditional Japanese banquet with over 300 years of history. The whole experience is called ozashiki-asobi. Though it is kind of a splurge, but definitely a memorable, authentic Kyoto cultural experience. If you are intrigued, Yasaka-Dori Enraku tea house/restaurant will give you some ideas of ozashiki-asobi.
How was this geisha beer garden experience report? This summertime-only Japanese favorite will be an excellent place for first-time geisha experience!
Related: Yasaka-Dori Enraku blog
2017 Schedule for Kamishichiken Beer Garden
When: July 1-Sep 5 (except for Aug 14-16 due to Bon holidays)
Opening hours: 5:30pm-10:00pm (last call at 9:30pm)
Kamishichiken Kabukai (in Japanese)
Access: Kyoto City Bus -from Kyoto stn. #50, #101
-from Shijo Kawaramachi area #10, #51, #55
Nearest stops: Kitano Tenmangu Mae and Kamishichiken.