Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Higashiyama (street) is one of the main streets featuring well preserved and restored teahouses in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Higashiyama (street) is one of the main streets featuring well preserved and restored teahouses in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kanazawa, on the northern shore of Japan’s “mainland” (Honshu Island), is blessed to have escaped the ravages of World War II.  The city of 460,000 boasts a number of important historical attractions, including remnants of the old castle town and the original Samurai and Chaya (entertainment) districts.  But it is its renowned garden, Kenroku-en, for which the city is most famous.  Literally translated as “Garden of the Six Sublimities,” Kenroku-en was built by the powerful Maeda clan in the 1600’s.  Kanazawa is also known for its frequent rain showers which we experienced each of the days we were visiting.

 

A rickshaw “driver” negotiates with a prospective passenger in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A rickshaw “driver” negotiates with a prospective passenger in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Across the Asano-gawa River from the Central District (including Kanazawa Castle Park and the famous Kenroku-en Garden), Higashi-chaya-gai, also known as the Higashi (East) Geisha District, is an enclave of narrow streets that was founded early during the 19th century for geisha to entertain wealthy patrons in teahouses.  The wood-slatted facades of the distinctive geisha houses have been romantically preserved.

 

An “address” sign on Higashiyama (street) in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

An “address” sign on Higashiyama (street) in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“A chaya (literally teahouse) is an exclusive type of restaurant where guests are entertained by geisha who perform song and dance.  During the Edo Period, chaya were found in designated entertainment districts, usually just outside the city limits.  Kanazawa has three, well preserved chaya districts, Higashi Chayagai (Eastern Chaya District), Nishi Chayagai (Western Chaya District) and Kazuemachi.  Of the three districts, the Higashi Chaya District (東茶屋街, Higashi Chayagai) is the largest and by far the most interesting.  Two chaya, the Shima Teahouse and Kaikaro Teahouse, are open to the public.  Other buildings along the central street now house cafes and shops.  One of the shops, Hakuza, sells gold leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa, and displays a tea ceremony room which is completely covered in gold leaf.” – www.japan-guide.com

 

The upstairs main entertainment room in the Ochaya Shima teahouse, dating to 1820 -- the oldest surviving original era teahouse in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanaza

The upstairs main entertainment room in the Ochaya Shima teahouse, dating to 1820 — the oldest surviving original era teahouse in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; guests (men, only) sat on the floor, with the patron (paying for the geisha’s entertainment for the evening) sitting with his back to the painting, facing his guests

 

During the heyday of the teahouses, men from the upper circles of society enjoyed watching geishas perform many Japanese fine arts: the koto (a Japanese harp), the shamisen (a three-stringed instrument), dancing, yōkyoku (Noh songs), tea ceremony, tanka (31-syllable Japanese poems), and haikai (17-syllable verses) – each of which was expected to be a highly cultivated technique.

 

A view of the interior garden from one of the upstairs entertainment rooms at the Ochaya Shima teahouse, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A view of the interior garden from one of the upstairs entertainment rooms at the Ochaya Shima teahouse, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A second upstairs entertainment room in the Ochaya Shima teahouse, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; note the simplicity and beauty of the two

A second upstairs entertainment room in the Ochaya Shima teahouse, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; note the simplicity and beauty of the two decorations – a painting and flowers

 

The preserved working basement in the Ochaya Shima teahouse, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The preserved working basement in the Ochaya Shima teahouse, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A Torii (鳥居, literally bird abode) Gate marking the entrance to a Shinto Shrine, at the edge of the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A Torii (鳥居, literally bird abode) Gate marking the entrance to a Shinto Shrine, at the edge of the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Two young Japanese tourist girls who had rented (for the day) traditional kimonos (modern fabrics) walking through the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Islan

Two young Japanese tourist girls who had rented (for the day) traditional kimonos (modern fabrics) walking through the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A typical wood-slatted facade of the distinctive teahouses in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A typical wood-slatted facade of the distinctive teahouses in the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

One of the shops on Higashiyama (street), Hakuza, sells gold leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; pictured

One of the shops on Higashiyama (street), Hakuza, sells gold leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; pictured here is gold leaf covered bread (sold for eating) – the store mostly features more traditional products such as jewelry, lacquer boxes and bowls, etc. that are covered with gold leaf

 

While most of the restored, typical wood-slatted teahouses today are not painted, this one was painted in a distinctive red color, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa,

While most of the restored, typical wood-slatted teahouses today are not painted, this one was painted in a distinctive red color, Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

3 thoughts on “Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

  1. Did you get to be entertained or was it only sightseeing the historic buildings, like the Japanese tourist girls were doing?

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  2. Rich and Robin: Your travels are always enjoyed vicariously. Two of Jim’s sons and wives are Japanese speakers. One couple lived and taught near Sapporo. Daughter-in-law Andrea took her recent Doctorate at Pepperdine developing complex computer techniques for teaching Japanese on line. They visit Japan regularly. Will The World ever sail under the Golden Gate? What a thrill that would be Best always Katherine

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