It was night time when I arrived at Gion–the perfect time to go geisha-hunting. After a few minutes of gazing at the lighted lanterns at Yasaka Shrine, I walked along Shijo-Dori. Things got interesting after a left turn at Hanami-koji street. Along this dark street are traditional wooden houses, restaurants, and teahouses. These are not your typical establishments. It’s almost as if you need to know the password or a secret handshake before they let you inside.
The secrecy is no surprise, specially for the teahouses. A relationship with a teahouse needs to be established before you are entertained by a geisha. The rates are also prohibitive so the patrons are mostly wealthy and important people. Definitely not a casual tourist.
So the tourists stalk geishas. They come to Gion, hoping for a glimpse at the elusive geisha. In front of the Ichiriki Teahouse, a band of tourists armed with cameras stood there waiting for their first geisha encounter.
But I did not stay. I did not want to spend the night waiting in front of a teahouse. And more important, some grilled meat and a cold Asahi were calling me.