There was one thing Sister and I wanted to do more than anything while we were in Japan and that was to have dinner with a Geiko, a trained entertainer. Not only were we able to have dinner with a Geiko (now retired) we were also able to have dinner with a Meiko, an apprentice Geiko. The whole event was organised by Gion Hatanaka, a Ryokan in Kyoto and while it is pricey (roughly £100 per person) it is something sister and I will never do again – an experience of a lifetime, an insight into a culture very different from our own. The price includes all food and alcohol plus impeccable service.
And when I saw impeccable, I mean it. For the trip my sister ate meat but I chose not to. As a vegetarian I did find it hard in Japan to find food which I could eat but Gion Hatanaka went out of their way to create a bespoke menu for me with deliciously prepared vegetarian food. I organised all of this with them before the event and even though I could sense their surprise at the fact that my vegetarianism included not eating fish or fish eggs, they catered for my diet – something I was very grateful for.
There were seven courses (yup, seven delicious courses) and unlimited sake (the best I have ever had) and green tea. Just have a look at this.
While we ate the Geiko sang and the Meiko danced. Then we had the chance to play drinking games with the Meiko (both sister and I won – woohoo!). These drinking games were brilliant fun – one was a full body version of rock paper scissors.
The whole evening was an incredible experience and I highly recommend it. If you find yourselves in Kyoto then book this evening. It’s expensive but worth it – so, so worth it. For sister and me, it was worth a rush jounrney on the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto, sweating copiously as we ran to Gion Hatanaka and arriving 5 minutes late. Thankfully we missed nothing and our sweat soon dried!
When both the Geiko and Meiko came around to talk to us I think I died a little. This tradition is so old and just to be a part of it, to talk to the women involved, to witness something which still thrives in Japan was incredible.