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Things to do in Japan

A glimpse into the life of a Kyoto geisha

Of all the symbols of Japan, one of the most recognised is that of a geisha but what it actually means to be a geisha is rather less well-kn…

Tristan Fleming-Froy
Asia travel expert for Alfred& Asia

Of all the symbols of Japan, one of the most recognised is that of a geisha with her white skin, red lips and ornate black wig, wearing a richly patterned silk kimono – but what it actually means to be a geisha is rather less well-known. So having a chance to explore Kyoto’s geisha districts with someone who’s an expert in this aspect of traditional Japanese culture is a truly rewarding experience.

Canadian photographer Peter MacIntosh has spent half his life in Kyoto and is the leading foreign geisha culture expert – he even lectures on Geisha Studies at Kansai University. It’s fascinating to hear his thoughts on the history of the ‘flower and willow world’ of Kyoto, and what it’s like today, and then spend some time in a members-only ochaya, or teahouse, watching a typical traditional geisha entertainment of music, dance and games. There are so many misconceptions about what geishas actually do – not the tea ceremony, for instance – and Peter is the perfect person to dispel them.

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Alfred & Tristan Fleming-Froy

Tristan is passionate about the Asian way of life and has spent the last 6 years studying Japan and East Asia, learning Japanese and researching international politics, even co-founding a new student organisation at university to promote learning about Asia and Asian culture. In between studying, he has spent much of his time travelling independently across East and Southeast Asia, including 5 months travelling solo around the Southeast Asian peninsula. Tristan also spent a year living in Japan, during which he explored many of Japan’s hidden gems, from tiny bars to forested islands, and summited Mt. Fuji alongside an international group of friends.

Alfred & our Japan holiday experts

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