Geisha were once found all across Japan, but with the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and the “modernization” of the country under the Meiji emperor, these highly trained entertainers have been decreasing bit by bit, becoming more and more part of the history of Japan and one of its most mysterious and intriguing traditional cultural symbols.
Today only in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Kanazawa, a few hundred geisha survive, but you might still have a chance to see them even if you are travelling in the Yamagata prefecture; there is in fact a very special place in the tiny town of Sakata where some Maiko (apprentice that is studying to become a Geisha) perform regularly, and give visitors a chance to learn more about this almost forgotten world, here at the Somaro teahouse.
At the Somaro teahouse visitors may either visit the teahouse and museum, or add to their visit a traditional Maiko performance, that includes lunch. Normally, this event needs to be booked in advance through the Somaro teahouse website. It is a very rare and unique opportunity to get closer to the authentic Japanese culture in an authentic and very well kept teahouse.
I have the privilege to travel Japan for work and pleasure and I can safely say that Somaro teahouse is indeed one of the most authentic and special geisha related experiences that you can have while in Japan.
Please Note: To keep this experience as authentic as possible, the performance is entirely in Japanese, and for the same reason photography and videorecording are forbidden during the performance. However a picture opportunity with the Maiko and staff is granted at the end of the show. A small souvenir shop selling local products is also available at the main door. Shoes have to be removed when entering the teahouse.