Enjoying Time with Higashiyama Geigi
“Ozashiki Asobi” is a Japanese tradition that brings the Edo period culture to the present day.
Geigi serve guests while dancing, playing music, and enlivening the atmosphere.
Aizuwakamatsu’s Higashiyama Geigi are geisha that distinguish themselves with their friendliness.
Geigi are professional entertainers.
Norichiyo is a Higashiyama Geigi who is stylish, cheerful, and a good conversationalist. Her friendliness makes her a favorite among Aizuwakamatsu’s citizens.
Geigi are professionals who have mastered traditional Japanese dance and the shamisen. Tsukino is on the left.
You have probably seen in the media images of Japanese women moving gracefully, wearing white makeup and red lipstick, hair worn up and pierced by decorative ornaments, and adorned in a traditional kimono. These women are called geigi (also known as “geisha”). They are professional entertainers who give performances and make customers feel at home at parties and other occasions. Although it reached its peak in the 18th century, the tradition of the geigi survives to this day as a stylish aspect of Japanese culture.
Originating in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto, geigi culture continues throughout Japan, even as times have changed and kimono and classical hairstyles are no longer commonplace. The sight of geigi performing classical Japanese dance, which combines traditional dancing with accompaniment by a stringed instrument called the shamisen, brings an essential air of elegance to celebratory gatherings.
Dozens of “Higashiyama Geigi” work in the Higashiyama Onsen district of Aizuwakamatsu City. Each belongs to a geisha house (called okiya) that arranges her schedule. Geigi are sent out in response to requests from ryokan (Japanese inn) and ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurants) in the city. At a typical gathering, they will enliven the atmosphere by dancing to two songs, pouring drinks, and engaging in witty conversation with the guests. The cheerful and unpretentious Higashiyama Geigi are well known by many local residents.
At historical Higashiyama Onsen, a place brimming with Japanese atmosphere
More than 1,000 years have passed since the hot spring was discovered at Higashiyama Onsen. Since ancient times, Higashiyama Onsen has been treasured as a place of rest and relaxation for Aizu’s samurai.
A row of banquet dishes prepared mainly with local ingredients. Guests enjoy an exciting time watching the geigi dance.
Higashiyama Onsen, where the geigi’s okiya is located, has an extremely long history, as over 1,300 years have passed since the onsen (hot spring) was first discovered. Situated in a mountainous setting along the Yugawa River, a stream with several magnificently scenic waterfalls, and with buildings standing shoulder-to-shoulder, this onsen resort is said to have once prospered as a recreational getaway for samurai.
The Higashiyama Geigi’s history is also long, said to stretch back to Japan’s Edo period (1603 to 1868). Their unique customs and performing arts have been handed down without interruption until the present day. Their repertoire is extremely diverse, including everything from classical dance to popular songs. Together with the accompanying sounds of the shamisen, drums, and other instruments, their performances add a uniquely Japanese flair to parties. Guests who wish to request a geigi visit can book one through their lodging at Higashiyama Onsen. The reasonable price of about 15,000 yen per geigi for 90 minutes is also quite attractive. Experiencing both the dance and shamisen will require booking a team of two geigi, so this should be requested during booking.
It is said that, as a basic rule, those who wish to partake in the form of geigi entertainment known as “Ozashiki Asobi” (tatami room party) must first become regular patrons. Nonetheless, watching a Higashiyama Geigi in a beautiful and elaborately crafted kimono, moving gracefully with a dancing fan in hand, is truly captivating.