They almost float in, stage right, three geisha to the sound of a Shamisen (traditional Japanese ‘guitar’) being played by an elderly lady, decked in full kimono and flanked by two other women, who are singing and playing a drum.
Geisha literally means 'entertainer', and within a few minutes of this intimate show in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi precinct, it becomes clear the moniker is apt.
Caked in the white make-up synonymous with the famous performers, the threesome dance in unison, with slow yet skillful movements and the elegance you’d expect of geisha.
After a couple of songs, a small shoji is brought out and the geisha play a traditional game similar to rock-paper-scissors called Tora Tora (tiger tiger), which employs Samurai-Old Woman-Tiger poses. Following a short demonstration, visitors are asked to join in, to humourous effect.
Afterwards, the geisha play Tosenkyo, a game that involves throwing a fan at a target on a pedestal called a butterfly, and visitors are again asked to take part, once more to varying success.
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After another quick game, the geisha dance in sync again, this time with pretty fans, before finishing their performance with a final and graceful, kneeled bow.
A geisha experience at Nihonbashi Tokyo isn’t going to overwhelm you like Cirque du Soleil or an elaborate opera, though it will get you much closer to (and even amongst) the action, which is what an ozashiki (geisha gathering) is all about. And when it’s over, you can even have your photo taken with Japan’s greatest entertainers. Try doing that anywhere else.
Also in Nihonbashi… The 60-minute Time to Geisha performance (5,500 yen, around AU$68) is one of a number of tours on offer at the excellent Nihonbashi Information Centre, which include the Best of Japan Gourmet Tour (just 1,000 yen, or about $12), The Way of Tea experience, Kimono Dressing and Rental, and Origami Workshop.
Conveniently, all tours take place within the massive COREDO Muromachi shopping complex, in which visitors can afterwards dine at the famous Nihonbashi Dashi Bar and follow it up with dessert at the equally renowned Tsuruya Yoshinobu sweet shop.
- Nihonbashi, which means “Japan Bridge”, grew around the historic Nihonbashi Bridge, which serves as Japan’s Kilometre Zero, the point from which all distances to Tokyo are measured.
- Nihonbashi is also credited as being the birthplace of sushi, and the culinary capital of Japan.
Traveltalk was a guest of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).
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