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Main Hall, Sakura Trees and Pagoda Lit Up at Night at Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Kyoto, Japan
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Kingkaku-Ji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan
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People Crossing a Road at Zebra Crossing, Tokyo, Japan
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Japanese Geisha
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Nestled among mountains in Western Honshu, Kyoto has a reputation worldwide as Japan's most beautiful city. 

Cherry Tree in Maruyama-Koen Park at Sunset, Kyoto, Japan
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However, visitors will be surprised how much work they will have to do to see its beautiful side. Most visitors' first impressions will be of the urban sprawl of central Kyoto, around the ultra-modern glass-and-steel train station.

Nonetheless, the persistent tourist will soon discover Kyoto's hidden beauty in the temples and parks which ring the city center, and find that the city has even more than meets the eye. 

Kyoto offers an incredible number of attractions for tourists, and visitors will probably need to plan an itinerary in advance in order to visit as many as possible.

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Japanese Geisha   by Shane Yen

Featured Kyoto Hotels

Japanese Geisha have their roots in female entertainers such as the Saburuko of the 7th century. Japanese Geishas performs for the nobility and concubines to the emperor. The first walled-in pleasure quarters were built in Japan in the 16th century. In the Japanese culture, they were modeled after those of Ming Dynasty China. After they were relocated in the mid-1600s, they became known as Shimabara (after a fortress in Kyushu).
Meanwhile a marshy patch of land (Yoshi-wara) in Edo had been designated as the site for a brothel district under the auspices of the Tokugawa shogunate. Strict rules such as brothels and the like were not allowed to operate outside the district. Among these rules were that no customers were allowed to stay in a brothel for more than 24 hours. Any suspicious or unknown visitors were to be reported to the Office of the City Governor.

With Japan enjoying a long-awaited period of peace following centuries of civil war, many samurai found that society no longer had such need of their services. It's thought that many daughters of these formerly noble families became courtesans, with the result that quarters such as Yoshiwara and Shimabara were places of refinement and culture. 

Women Dressed As Geisha with Building in Background, Heian-Jingu, Kyoto, Japan
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Peace also brought an increase in prosperity and the rise of the merchant class, or chonin. Add that to the presence of artists and an atmosphere free of the strictures of the outside world, and it truly was something of an adult amusement park, with culture thrown in for good measure.

Within the hanamichi there were many different classes of courtesans, and over the decades the hierarchy and the standards expected of them changed many times, not always for the better. The situation deteriorated in the mid-18th century to the extent that a new form of entertainer emerged in Kyoto and Osaka. 
Detail of Woodblock Print, Kyoto, Japan
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The earliest geiko were men, while the first females, who appeared shortly after, were odoriko (dancers) or played the shamisen. Female geisha soon became popular enough to be able to steal clients from the courtesans, and in the case of Yoshiwara it was decided to start a kenban, or registration system, to keep them under control and force them to pay taxes.

t strictly controlled their dress, behavior and movements and was considered so successful that it quickly became the norm at hanamichi across Japan. These strict rules in fact allowed the geisha to flourish as artists and entertainers. Though more simply dressed than the courtesans, they became regarded as fashion leaders. 

But many aspects of the lifestyle itself were less glamorous. Young girls were sold into the geisha life by their families until the mid-20th century and were often subject to the ritual of 'mizu-age,' whereby their virginity was sold to the highest bidder. Such practices were eradicated after World War II and the geisha profession went into a steady decline. Today, if Japanese geisha are hired to entertain at a private party outside the upper echelons of society, they are most likely to be seasoned veterans, more akin to your favorite aunt or even grandmother than the girl next door.

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About the Author: Shane is an expert in Japanese Culture. He has lived in Japan for 10 years and considers his second home.


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Grand Prince Hotel Kyoto
The Grand Prince Hotel Kyoto was designed by the late Togo Murano, an architect who made a valuable contribution to Japanese architecture.The hotel features spacious guest rooms, elegant banquet halls, restaurants, and a Sukiya-style teahouse in the Japanese garden, for the real Kyoto experience. There are 7 banquet rooms of varying sizes that combine international scale and functionality. Delight your tastebuds with a feast of seasonal delicacies at the teppan-yaki grill corner or enjoy French cuisine employing Kyoto produce as you look out onto the Japanese garden. The restaurant is comprised of these two corners.
Hearton Hotel Kyoto
Hearton Hotel Kyoto is less than a 5-minute walk away from Kyoto International Manga Museum. It is a 15-minute walk from Nijo Castle and Nishiki Market, and a 2-minute walk from Karasuma-Oike Subway Station, Hearton Hotel Kyoto offers a restaurant, coin-operated laundry facilities and free bicycle use. Rooms come with free wired internet. Bright, air-conditioned rooms are decorated in lively colours. They are fitted with an LCD TV, a refrigerator and a tea/coffee maker. Nightwear and slippers are provided. Guests at Hearton Hotel can unwind with a massage treatment. Computers are available at the internet corner, and there is a convenience shop. The hotel's cafe-restaurant serves Western and traditional Kyoto cuisine. It overlooks the patio, and regularly features live music.
Hyatt Regency Kyoto
The stylish Hyatt Regency offers spacious rooms, free Wi-Fi and 3 restaurants on just a 5-minute drive from Kyoto Station. It features a fitness centre, spa services and rental bicycles. Guests can treat themselves to shiatsu, acupuncture, aromatherapy and other treatments at Riraku Spa. The Kyoto Regency Hyatt offers a 24-hour concierge, a souvenir shop and baby-sitting services. Restaurant The Grill features French grill dishes, while Touzan serves Japanese cuisine and Trattoria Sette offers Italian food. The Hyatt has a bar, a pastry shop and 24-hour room service. The Hyatt Regency Kyoto is a 5-minute walk away from Shichijo Station. It is a less than 5-minute walk away from Kyoto National Museum and Sanjusangen-do Temple.
Kyoto Hotel Okura
Kyoto Hotel Okura is a luxury 16-story hotel, conveniently located in the heart of Kyoto and eminently suited for both business and leisure travelers. Centrally located, the property is close to the Kyoto business district and Kyoto's central shopping area of Shijo-Kawaramachi. Many local attractions are a short distance from the hotel, including the Imperial Palace, Kyoto's oldest temple, Toji, and Nijo Castle. The Kyoto Hotel Okura is also just a 15-minute drive from Kyoto Train Station. Providing a tranquil setting within an urban environment, the lavish decor of this hotel encompasses a touch of the 1920s, with warm wood paneling, majestic columns, and comfortable armchairs in the spacious hotel Lobby that towers up to the 2nd floor level.
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