Because everything you know about wooing a seductive Japanese hostess comes from watching Keanu Reeves in 47 Ronin, we've put together this handy guide to getting a geisha -- and, more importantly, how to do so without breaking the bank. Because normally they break the bank. But we've got tricks. Which doesn't necessarily mean what you thought it did...
Who is she, anyway?
Geisha are upscale entertainers who, like magicians, you rent for parties. However, rather than repeatedly asking, "Is this your card?", a geisha plays the role of your ultimate dream girl. (Unless, of course, your ultimate dream girl performs card tricks.)
When you ask, she's there; she's delicate, demure, charming, stylized, graceful, and maybe a little bawdy. She sings (for you), dances (for you), dresses (for you), calls attention (to you), and makes sure everybody in the room knows you're the top dog. Unless DMX is there, and has a better geisha.
Upping your status is a national obsession in the Land of the Rising Sun, and geisha are the ultimate image doctors. Get one on your arm, and you're everything a man should be. It’s not surprising they cost a fortune and use a years-long vetting process to ensure you’re worth their time and effort. There is, however, a shortcut to scoring a geisha: a little-known tour called Kyoto Sights and Nights
What you get from Kyoto Sights and Nights
Think of it as “Geisha Lite", but without the strange "Schwarzenegger playing ping pong" Super Bowl commercials. Most geisha pay the bills by escorting business moguls to events, which can cost thousands of dollars. Why so much? Theirs is a skill that takes years to refine... and those fancy kimonos can cost as much as a brand-new luxury SUV.
But geisha also perform song and dance routines at traditional teahouses, and this is where Kyoto Sights and Nights steps in. For $500 -- and trust us, that’s a steal -- you'll enjoy all the perks of a personal geisha without ever having to succeed in business. Or life, for that matter. It's just for an hour or two -- which is one of the reasons it's so affordable-ish -- but compared to zero hours ever that's pretty solid.
A VIP package includes a 90min walk through the cultural heart of Kyoto's hanamachi, an old-world entertainment district studded with teahouses that, for hundreds of years, have served as the geisha’s native habitat.
In one such teahouse, you’ll sit for a classic Japanese meal and meet your geisha for the evening. True to form, she’ll sing and dance and flutter her fans. She’ll also sit down for some incredibly-awkward-since-you-probably-don't-speak-Japanese conversation, so prepare to be witty. Or just to nod a lot. Far from stiff, geisha are all about relaxation (for you and themselves) -- so sit back, have some sake, chat, and ask questions. On second thought, maybe you should download a translation app...
What you don't get
Sex. She’s not a hooker, and never was. You won't get a lap dance, strip show, or even her phone number. That stereotype arose during the American occupation of Japan after WWII, when actual prostitutes slapped on whiteface and passed themselves off as geisha to GIs who didn’t know any better. Nor probably cared. If a geisha puts out, you’re getting robbed -- of the experience of meeting a real geisha, that is!
Four more things to know
Most geisha perform in teahouses, which themselves are pretty exclusive.
In Japan, landing a geisha is the most status-boosting thing you can do. It's like showing up at a club with Jay-Z. Or something like that.
"Geisha" means "Art Person" in Japanese. And the nape of a geisha's neck is considered as beautiful as her face. Are you jotting this down?
Red lips mean she is a full geisha. If only the lower is red, it means she's a "maiko," or apprentice. Better than hanging out with a guy who spends 25 years learning how to make shoes from some old dude.