Discover one of Kanazawa’s largest geisha districts
In Japanese culture, geisha houses have been traditional places for feasts and entertainment since the Edo period. Also referred to as “chaya”, they are where geishas entertained wealthy nobility and rich merchants. Geishas are female Japanese entertainers who perform dances and play traditional Japanese instruments.
The central part of Kanazawa was once dotted with a number of geisha houses, but in 1820, these were moved to three specific districts away from the city centre. The largest one of these – and arguably the most famous – is the Higashi Chaya district.
The geisha houses in Higashi Chaya have a stunning traditional appearance. A geisha house is characterised by the beautiful lattice on the outer side of its first floor, called “kimusuko”, and the Japanese-style guestrooms located on the second floor. During the Edo period, the construction of two-story buildings except geisha houses was prohibited, making their appearance all the more striking.
These historical geisha houses along with Kyoto's Gion and Kanazawa's Kazue-machi have been designated as Japanese cultural assets. No other geisha districts have been designated as cultural assets for Japan, making Higashi Chaya even more special.
The district includes facilities where you can see the interior of a geisha house that was built almost 200 years ago, as well as quite a few old buildings have been refurbished into restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops. Additionally, it takes a mere three minutes on foot to reach the banks of the Asano River from Higashi Chaya, making it an excellent area to explore afterwards.
The Kanazawa City Tourism Association holds a geisha performance show in the three geisha districts of the city on designated Saturdays, so make sure you plan your visit accordingly.
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