A plethora of blinding neon lights and shop signs line the narrow streets of Gion, fighting to attract the attention of passers-by. Believe me, Gion’s vast selection of restaurants and pubs will leave you spoiled for choice.

This is also where the Geishas typically hang out at night! Grace and I must really thank our lucky stars that day, for we saw not just one, but two Geishas!!

Geishas, simply put, are women of the arts. This geisha above is a senior Geiko with with more than 20 years of experience.
Here’s a guide to identifying Geikos (courtesy of Grace):
Hair:- A Geiko wears a few pins and a kushi which is generally plain in style and not covered in silk in her hair.

Make-up:- They wear white make-up that leave no bare hair line with minimal amount of red outlining the eyes and eyebrows. They will also paint her lips almost in full.

Kimono & Collar:-Geiko’s kimono has shorter sleeves and is usually of a solid colour with a subtle pattern towards the bottom. Geikos also wear a wide, yet simple white collar.

Obi:-Geikos wear a narrower obi of a subtle pattern and generally tie it in the style of the refined Taiko box bow.

Lady Luck was shining on us that day as we we caught sight of another Geisha after our sumptuous dinner, which I will talk about later. On our way back as we walked through the brightly-lit alley, I saw a beautiful figure clad in colourful finery. I immediately grabbed Grace’s hands and shouted “Geisha!”, before gesturing to her excitedly that she should get her camera ready to snap, snap, snap!! What an eventful night it was!
Here’s a guide to identifying Maikos (again thanks to Grace):
Hair:- Maikos wear a wide variety of hair ornaments called kanzashi. They are often more elaborated & colourful than those wore by the geiko. This maiko is wearing a “hana kanzashi” created from squares of silk by a technique known as tsumami. Maikos wear different hana kanzashi according to the season and this one is wearing the winter theme where tortoiseshell and coral kanzashi are are worn.

Make-up:- Maikos paint their faces white & leave a W shaped line of bare skin around their natural hairline. Their eyes and eyebrows have a noticeable amount of red. With both her lips painted, I think this maiko is a senior maiko as junior maiko can only paint their lower half lips.

Kimono & Collar:- Maikos’ kimonos are more colourful with long sleeves that hang down near their ankles. They also wear a thick heavy embroidered collar which is predominately red, with a smattering of white and silver patterns on it.

Obi:- A Maiko’s obi is long and wide and covers a good proportion of her torso from her hip bone to her breast. The back of the obi bow dangles down to her ankles.

So now, back to dinner. We had no idea which restaurant to go to, but we eventually stumbled upon a gem.
We ordered the set menu, called “Kyo-zanmai”, which translates to the “Taste of Kyoto”. It was a steal at 3,800 yen (approximately SGD60).
For starters, we had 3 seasonal dishes, namely radish, dou miao and tofu. Unlike the Chinese tofu, this one had a very dense yet smooth texture.
Next up was pot-steamed hotchpotch – clear soup with tofu and minced crab meat.
The sashimi was very sweet and fresh. We had toro, tai, ika and bean curd skin served on a bamboo dish.
Yakimono – Chargrilled Tajima beef and Kyoto vegetables
Seasonal rice with Japanese herbs, shiso and fried anchovies. This was a unique dish and absolutely tantalizing to the taste buds.
And finally, we had green tea ice-cream from Gion’s famous cafe, Tsujiri, which specializes in green tea.