Foreign guests welcome at lobby lounge function that sidesteps the cost and pretense of orthodox geisha services.

With its deep connection to Japanese tradition, Kyoto is one of the country’s most popular destinations for both domestic and international travelers. But while there’s perhaps no better representation of classical Kyoto culture than geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha), the average tourist has very little chance of spending time with one of the storied entertainers.

Geisha services come at high prices, placing them primarily in the domain of companies with expense accounts for entertaining clients or wealthy patrons of the arts. That’s also to say nothing of the exclusivity of certain geisha houses which require introductions from past clients before their members can be contracted for appearances.

However, the Kyoto Brighton Hotel, located in the city’s Kamigyo Ward, is offering an opportunity to experience this unique aspect of Japanese culture at an affordable price and without the need for pre-existing personal connections. On select Fridays the hotel’s lobby lounge, Cour Au Midi, holds its “Maiko-han Bar” event (-han being a Kyoto dialect pronunciation of the Japanese honorific -san), where geisha and maiko chat with customers while enjoying drinks and light refreshment.

▼ Cour Au Midi interior

Two seatings are scheduled for each event, the first at 6 p.m. and the second an hour later, at 7. The package includes a beverage (alcoholic options are available) and hors d’oeuvre plate, but the real draw is, of course, the chance to spend time with actual geisha from houses based in Kyoto’s Kamishichiken and Miyakawacho districts. Photography is allowed, as the organizers know that participants will want to take pictures to commemorate this rare opportunity.

While conversational English is not ordinarily part of the skill set that geisha acquire as part of their training, photos from a previous iteration of the Maiko-han Bar do show foreign guests participating, and the fact that the hotel itself chose to include such images in their promotional package suggests that the event is welcoming towards overseas travelers.

The next three opportunities to take part in the Maiko-han Bar are scheduled for January 26, and March 30, both Fridays. Participation is 5,000 yen (US$45) per person, which while admittedly pricy for a drink and some snacks, is a bargain for time with authentic geisha, as well as very reasonable for an unforgettable cultural experience.

Hotel information
Kyoto Brighton Hotel / 京都ブライトンホテル
Address: Kyoto-shi, Kamigyo-ku, Shinmachidori, Nakadachiuri

Source: @Press
Top image: @Press
Insert images: @Press, Kyoto Brighton Hotel
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