Kyoto Beef & Apprentice Geisha

Playing a rhythm based drinking game with the Maiko-san. Maiko are apprentice geisha- our Maiko-san was only 18 years old. When she becomes a geisha, she will no longer wear the red diamond in her hair.

Today was a very interesting day. It was all over the place! Some of you might recall that a couple of months ago, as I was riding my bike home, I was hit by a car. I wasn’t hurt, but my bicycle was destroyed, so the driver, Yoko, gave me the money to buy a new one. Well, right before we left for Hokkaido, she texted me again; one, to make sure that I was okay, and two, to invite me out to lunch in the Sanjo area (a classy end of town). I accepted her offer on the condition Nicky could go with me, since I assumed it would be rather awkward otherwise. I really have no connection with the woman beyond what happened that day... but I decided to go.

Yoko has three sons, the youngest of which owns a restaurant called “Sora” (where we ate). Her second son studied English in Vancouver for a year before going to Iowa to study for a pilot license. Three years ago, he died in a plane crash- this information was very unsettling, and hard to discuss in Japanese, as well as over lunch-- Nicky and I really didn’t know what to say. The food was very good though. We were able to eat beef from cattle raised in Kyoto- it was so tender, like butter... even thinking about it now makes my mouth water... but it was extremely expensive. About 6 ounces of meat was $30.... thank goodness the owner of the store was paying!

After lunch, we parted ways with Yoko and her family and headed down to the Kamo River. The Sanjo shopping area is actually really pretty, but I’d like to go on a weekday, when there will be less “trendy” people about. There are a lot of interesting shops. While we were at the Kamo River, we watched a man feeding fish hawks- at one point, there were over six hawks circling the area he was in, taking dives at the water fowl and ravens when they tried to go after the food.

We spent about an hour by the riverside, before packing up and heading down to Kyoto station to meet Aaron and Jenni. It was time for the main event of the day- the Maiko party!!

We met Wada-san and the other participants near the Gion, where we were then led down one of the four main streets of Gion. The best part about this street is that it looks so deserted- the doors are all closed, and there are very few lamps. I imagine many tourists overlook the street because of its humble appearance. But, it takes only one look in the window to see that this is part of geisha town- one house we walked by had a lineup of about twenty of the black lacquer shoes barely visible through its slated windows- a house for geisha. It was quite intimate, and I was surprised, because I was expecting more tourism.

We were led to a very small, Japanese style bar with only two floors. We took our shoes off at the door and headed upstairs. The room was quite small, and luckily, Nicky and I were allowed to sit together even though it was supposed to be partly a mixer. I met a lot of interesting people at the party- but naturally, the apprentice geisha- the Maiko- stole the show.

Our Maiko-san was only 18 years old, but she was quite charming. She explained that she had been scouted to become a geisha when she was very young. While she was with us, all of us got a chance to have our picture taken with her, as well as play one round of drinking games with her. The game was a rhythm game, and whether you won or lost, you were forced to drink a glass of beer in four seconds or less. Nicky astounded everyone when she won a round! Jenni and Aaron also won, making it so that the only people who actually won the game were foreigners... imagine that!

In any case, the Maiko was absolutely gorgeous, and I’m glad she was patient with all of us taking a zillion pictures of her. You can see pictures in my gallery. After the party, Nicky and I decided to walk back to Kyoto Station from Gion, and shared a pleasant and quietly romantic walk down the Kamo river. I truly love it here!