geisha

Nine things that may shatter your dreams of living in Kyoto

Kyoto now welcomes 50 million tourists a year who come to experience Japan’s traditional culture and architecture, plus catch a glimpse of the city’s famed geisha. But, as anyone who lives in a tourist hot spot knows, living there is not the same as a short visit.

As such, the following is a list of some of the things that Kyoto locals probably have the urge to remind tourists of from time to time, so allow us to shatter your illusions with some of the realities that come with living in Japan’s ancient capital.

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Narita Airport attempts to woo international travellers with ‘Omotenashi’ welcome program

‘Omotenashi’, the spirit of Japanese hospitality, became something of a buzzword at home and abroad when Christel Takigawa used the phrase in her speech to the International Olympic Committee in 2013.

And it’s in this spirit that Tokyo’s Narita airport plans to extend an especially warm welcome to international visitors this year, as it renews its Omotenashi Program of special offers and cultural events for transferring passengers.

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Photos from 140 years ago show Tokyo’s skyline was amazing long before the Skytree was ever built

In 1853, the rulers of Japan ended the country’s more than two centuries of isolation from the rest of the world. But while foreigners could now get into Japan for trade and commerce, it would take more than 10 years until Japanese citizens could leave the country, meaning that outside cultural influences were still slow to find their way into the half-opened nation.

As such, there’s a brief, time capsule-like period in which Japan’s culture was still almost entirely of indigenous origins, but foreign visitors had the technology to visually document it, as shown in these beautiful photographs of 19th century Japan.

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Can’t spend a whole month at Kyoto’s Gion Festival? This beautiful video gives the highlights

Many neighborhoods in Japan have festivals during the summer, often centered around the local shrine. They generally include processions, musical performances, and Shinto rituals, with the festivities lasting a day, or maybe two if they stretch throughout the weekend.

Kyoto’s Gion district, though, does things on a grander scale. The Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) starts on July 1 and runs for the entire month, with some sort of event happening almost every day. And while most non-residents can’t clear out enough of their schedule to sped a few solid weeks in Japan’s former capital, this beautiful video gives the highlights of the event.

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Anti-UK World War II era photograph featuring grimacing geisha uncovered

If you were paying attention during history class, you’ll know all about wartime propaganda and the role it played in “motivating” people during the war effort. It seems like most countries involved got in on a piece of the propaganda action to some degree or other, with anti-Japanese propaganda being just one example.

But what do you think of this picture that has recently been uncovered showing two geisha holding their noses over a picture of former UK prime minister Winston Churchill? And what’s the joke behind it?

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Can you name 5 traditional Japanese arts that are distinctly female? 【Women in Japan Series】

If asked which traditional Japanese arts are female-only, the first thing that comes to mind for most foreigners is probably geisha. Following that, most people might guess tea ceremony, ikebana (flower arrangement) or calligraphy. But tea ceremony and ikebana had connections to Buddhism and were started in Japan by Buddhist priests. Still today many masters in these two disciplines are men. Calligraphy was brought over from China and both men and women practiced by copying Chinese letters. Only later did Japan develop its own form of calligraphy which is still practiced today by both sexes.

In this article, we introduce five strictly female Japanese arts, a couple of which you may have never heard of before. In addition to everyone’s favorite, the geisha, we introduce the world’s only all-female revue, naginata swords for women, itako female fortune-tellers and the mysterious naked sea nymphs: the ama pearl divers.

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We went to the Ozashiki Cafe to see professional geisha perform — and we had an amazing time!

Last month, we ran a story about the Ozashiki Cafe, a one day event that would offer a unique opportunity for the Japanese public to take a look into the usually exclusive world of geisha and the traditional Japanese restaurants known as ryotei, where they perform. Much to our delight, we received comments from readers encouraging us to sign up and attend the event, so that’s exactly what we decided to do! And we were quite excited to do so too, since the average person in Japan usually doesn’t have the chance to interact with professional geisha. So, here’s our report on what we experienced at the Ozashiki Cafe, which took place at the ryotei Miyakodori in the Asakusa district of Tokyo — and we have to say, it was quite a treat to be entertained by professional geisha, even it was for just one fleeting hour!

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The Ozashiki Cafe — Japanese restaurant offers chance to spend time with real-life geisha!

Have you ever fantasized about the world of geisha? Even for most of us Japanese, the beautifully made-up and richly adorned geisha is an object of fascination and mystery, simply because the world they live and entertain in is so exclusive. Since it’s quite rare for the average Japanese person to have the opportunity to be entertained by professional geisha, many of us don’t really have an idea of what goes on in the tea houses (ochaya) and traditional restaurants (ryotei) where geisha perform, which is why the ryotei Miyakodori has come up with a one-day event called the “Ozashiki Cafe” to offer us a glimpse into the hidden world of geisha!

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“Racist” Air France geisha poster prompts satirical home-made fixes

Air France has come under fire this week after its latest promotional ad campaign, which consists of a series of 18 photos featuring mostly caucasian women dressed and made up to represent countries the airline serves, depicts Japan as the land of giant-haired geisha.

It’s hardly the most offensive ad ever – and it’s certainly better than ANA’s big-nosed white men commercial from earlier this year – but critics are calling for it to be pulled, with many suggesting that it is “stereotypically racist” and in poor taste. Fortunately, net users were on hand to “fix” Air France’s photos, and make them that little bit more Japanese…

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Video proves 19th century samurai and Japanese ladies have elegance all wrapped up

Have you ever looked at the current crop of Johnny’s and female idol groups streaming out of Japan and thought that their high energy hair styles and in-your-face costumes were a little genki for your tastes? Have you ever wondered, “what would they look like as samurai or geisha?” Look no further than this video showcasing the style and class of the 19th century!

Take a look at the video after the jump and see what the rest of the world thinks of Japan’s stoic idols.

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