How To Book a Geisha Show in Kyoto & What To Expect

By The byFood Team
Updated: March 27, 2024

Kyoto is one of Japan's top tourist destinations. Often nicknamed the cultural capital of Japan, this small but charming city is where you'll see hints of traditional architecture and culture everywhere you look. One subculture often associated with Kyoto is geisha, skilled professional entertainers that boomed in popularity with the export of anime and manga, and Rob Marshall's 2005 Memoirs of a Geisha. 

It's not uncommon to see geisha in Gion or Pontocho, two of Kyoto's nightlife districts, as they go from one gig to another. This said, if you want to see them perform, you'll have to do some advance planning. Geisha have packed schedules and are very much in demand!

Note: Following Kyoto City's tourist ban in parts of the Gion district, we think it's important to mention that the best way to meet and converse with geisha is to book through the proper channels. This blog post introduces three popular venues, but you'll also find food experiences with geisha on byFood.

History of geisha shows in Kyoto


Though you can find geisha around the country, including in Tokyo and Niigata, geisha culture really defined itself in Kyoto over the 1,000 years the city acted as the capital of Japan. 

As the entertainers picked up skills that would later define their profession, like shamisen-playing and singing, their relationships with local establishments deepened. These areas became hanamachi (literally "flower town"), and it's where you're likely to still spot geisha today. 

Keep reading about geisha and their history via our beginner's guide to geisha culture.

Where to watch a geisha show in Kyoto

A geisha show in Kyoto

Traditionally, a geisha's role would be to entertain guests with dance, music, and conversation during grandiose banquets and special occasions.

Dinner with geisha in Kyoto

You can see geisha perform at a traditional Japanese restaurant (ryotei). A dinner at a ryotei restaurant is costly, but you're guaranteed good food and entertainment. Expect to pay upward of ¥50,000 for a group and a 2-hour dinner and show package. Another challenge is that some of the highest-rated ryotei restaurants only accept reservations from trusted customers. In other words, it's a very exclusive affair. 

Luckily, some restaurants are open to bookings outside of their inner circles. Here are some famous ryotei restaurants to consider for your trip: 

Remember to book in advance and be careful to read the terms and conditions of each establishment and any special instructions on how to book geisha entertainment for your dinner.

Leave it to the experts. Book this geisha show in Gion online and in English. 

Geisha-led tea ceremony experiences

Another way you can meet and chat with geisha in Japan, and a popular experience even among Japanese travelers, is tea ceremony. Geisha learn the way of tea when building their hostess skill set. This experience is also a great alternative if you're looking for a daytime experience versus something later in the day. One well-known Kyoto teahouse that offers geisha tea ceremony experiences is Maikoya

Geisha shows during Kyoto festivals

Maiko performing in Kyoto

One lesser-known fact about geisha is that they take the time to celebrate Japanese holidays. In fact, during Setsubun, it's not rare for geisha to dress up as "ghosts" and join celebrations at a local temple. They'll also incorporate seasonal jokes and references into their shows. 

One important event for geisha in Kyoto is Kamogawa Odori, which takes place in May. This event, which first took place at the end of the 19th century, sees geisha and maiko perform and boast their grace and skills. Tickets to select shows go on sale up to one month before. 

In July, during the Gion Festival, geisha perform on the stage of Yasaka Shrine. This is one of the few events where you can see geisha perform for free. Be warned, however, that it'll be crowded! 

What to expect during a geisha show in Kyoto

Geisha entertainment can take on many forms depending on who is attending to you. There are some activities, however, that are quintessential to a geisha show in Kyoto. Dance and party games are two elements that you're guaranteed to see and participate in. 

For more extravagant events, geisha might have more time to demonstrate their musical skills, playing a shamisen of fue (flute) set for their guests. 

FAQ on geisha shows in Kyoto

Geisha show in Kyoto

What exactly is a geisha show?

A geisha show, also known as a "geisha performance," is a traditional Japanese entertainment experience where geisha, highly skilled entertainers, showcase their talents through dances, music, games, and conversation.

How long do geisha shows typically last?

Geisha shows in Kyoto usually last around 1-2 hours.

Can I take photos during a geisha show?

While some venues may allow discreet photography, taking photos during a geisha show is generally frowned upon as it can disrupt the performers and other guests. It's best to enjoy the experience with your eyes and immerse yourself in the moment.

How can I book a geisha show in Kyoto?

To book a geisha show in Kyoto, it's recommended to go through reputable booking agencies or directly contact ryotei restaurants or ochaya (teahouses) that offer geisha entertainment. Advanced reservations are often required.

What should I wear to a geisha show?

Attire for a geisha show in Kyoto should be respectful and formal. Men typically wear suits or traditional Japanese attire like a kimono, while women can opt for elegant dresses or kimonos. Avoid overly casual or revealing clothing to show respect for the performers and the event's cultural significance. 

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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The byFood Team
Sharing our love of Japanese cuisine and culture, with the mission of spreading happiness through food.
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