Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening

Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening: Address, Phone Number, Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening Reviews: 4.5/5

Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening

Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto Cuisine and Maiko Evening
4.5
Dinner Theaters • Theatre & Performances
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

4.5
89 reviews
Excellent
69
Very good
11
Average
6
Poor
2
Terrible
1

vladb
Boston, MA107 contributions
Couples
Other than seeing the Gion Corner dances, as well as the 15 minute Maiko presentation at the Traditional Craft Museum, this event is, to the best of my knowledge, the only opportunity in Kyoto to interact with real Maiko for anyone who is not a VIP businessman.
This is not a tourist trap for Westerners either - the setting is quite intimate, at 28 maximum capacity (7 tables, 4 seats each). In fact, on the night of our visit, we were the only non-Japanese in the room. And as proof that there's nothing overtly sexual about Maiko or Geiko these days, the attendance included a family with a 10 year old boy, a group of female school teachers, and two Bhuddist monks! The kaiseki dinner was on par with what we had in other highly-rated places in the city. Unlimited beverage service (including alcohol) was included in the total price.
During our visit we were incredibly lucky to also meet a Geisha (Geiko), as usually only Maiko participate in the event. The reason for the Geiko's appearance might have been a crew from a Japanese Tea company photographing part of their ad campaign. Since an older Geisha who doesn't dance, plays the shamisen (three-stringed musical instrument), we ended up meeting two Geiko and a Maiko that evening!
The 2-hour dinner consists roughly of 4 parts - first, the host explains (in both Japanese and English), the various aspects of Maiko/Geiko tradition - then, the 2 Maiko (or Maiko and Geiko, if you lucky as we were), perform several dances, while the older Geiko accompanies them on the shamisen and sings. The Maiko and Geiko then go around the tables and make conversation. In our case, the Geiko did not speak English and the host acted as interpreter. Some of our questions, unfortunately, got "lost in translation", but it was still an amazing conversation. The Maiko was incredibly sweet and spoke English well enough to talk to us on her own. The last part of the evening were drinking games - everyone who wanted to, got a chance to play. I will not spoil them for you, but suffice it to say that non-alcoholic drinks were an option, and that everyone enjoyed themselves immensely - the women in the audience just as well as men.
To sum it up, the dinner was the highlight of our trip to Japan, not tacky or gimmicky at all, and worth the price to experience this unique cultural heritage.
Written January 7, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Greer F
Wilmington, DE6 contributions
This dinner and entertainment was one of my highlights. A maiko playing the semisen, the other two dancing. And, do NOT hesitate to partake in the drinking game. A new friend I met from Belgium took a video of me acting out with one of the maikos. So much laughter! The kaiseki dinner was a wonderful traditional way to celebrate the experience.
Written June 12, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

TheSecondChild
Lewiston, ME39 contributions
Friends
My friends and I recently return from a whirlwind, two week tour of Japan. The planning was left up to me, and so we ended up doing what I wanted a lot of the time. Good deal for me, but I think my travel companions enjoyed it every bit as much.

We did a lot of amazing things - visited the world's craziest izakaya (Kagaya), drove Go Karts through Tokyo (MariCar), checked out Comiket Summer, explored Osaka Castle, visited the nerd/geek haven/heaven of Akihabara, saw the Tanabata Matsuri in Sendai and the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori, visited Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, ate real Kobe beef in Kobe, we even climbed Mt. Fuji.

And yet, having done all of these things, the night which remains most clearly in focus in my mind as being the cultural and historical standout is our evening at Gion Hatanaka.

We were fortunate enough to be entertained by a lovely and talented geiko as well as two adorable and charming maiko.

As you are doubtless aware, maiko are geiko in training. When you say geiko, you are specifically referring to a geisha (fully trained entertainer) from Kyoto, the original capital city of Japan.

The history of these charming and graceful entertainers is rich and storied, and knowing how few authentic geisha are left in Japan, it was a thrill to be served sake by a real life geiko.

Words fail to capture just how gracefully the geiko and maiko moved. They look like they are dancing, even when they are merely walking. Each movement is dripping with purpose and intent.

After singing and dancing, the three took a break to serve drinks at the guest tables and chat a bit. My delight at being served by the geiko was not just springing from my historical and cultural interest in the geisha, but also because she spoke English well enough to not need an interpreter (and I spoke awful Japanese just well enough for her to take my meaning most of the time) and as such I got to speak with her directly. She was incredibly charming and a wonderful conversationalist, and all three of them clearly knew how to make guests feel welcome.

The dinner that accompanied the entertainment was traditional (and I do mean TRADITIONAL) Japanese fare. If it is new to you, you might find it challenging. The table near us had some fellow Americans who seemed to chicken out and request substitions.

I myself had never tried eel or some of the other foods before, but I was determined to experience something outside of my comfort zone, and found the food different but there was enough there (many courses!) so that I was able to find enough that I enjoyed in each course so I was quite full by the end. Not my favourite meal of the trip but I was happy to sample the authentic cuisine and the unlimited drinks were certainly welcome (that plum liquor was ridiculously tasty!) and honestly I was mostly there for the entertainment.

After dinner, the geiko played shamisen and sang while the maiko invited the guests up to play drinking games. All three of us won our games although I have the suspicion that the maiko, trained as they are, simply let us win if we lasted long enough, to make sure everyone got a turn. They did so with wonderful acting and 100% let us feel that it was a real victory - another of their many skills, doubtless.

I won a pair of chopsticks for my girlfriend, and she won some pretty paper. I really enjoyed this aspect and honestly I would have played drinking games with the geiko and maiko all night, had that been possible.

Gion Hatanaka did not disappoint. It transported us to another time and we were privileged to be able to share in an ancient and beautiful tradition.

I cannot recommend Gion Hatanaka emphatically enough. If you are in Kyoto, please go there and experience it for yourself.
Written September 1, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

IndigoingTraveler
San Francisco, CA69 contributions
Couples
This is billed as a Maiko evening which is a joke because the whole thing was 1 1/2 and the Maiko only performed two short versions of songs. I knew it was going to be authentic but I had no idea just what a scam it was. When you realize there is man hosting it and directing everything and that it actually place in a Ryokan and not a tea house that's a good indicator of how fair from a real experience it was. I was under the impression we would go to an actual tea house and that it was a small group experience instead it was 30 people and was in their dining room with horrible lighting and absolutely no charm.
We were given the worst seats in the place where the host (yup a man in charge of maiko/geiko activities said we could stand up or move to get pictures. I couldn't believe they let people take pictures but once I realized this had nothing to do with a real meal with a Maiko/geiko I understood how anything went. The maiko/geiko were treated as little more than props for pictures and drunk English speakers asked not just coarse but stupid questions to them and finally lying down on the floor to take pictures in front of the Maikos and geiko.

They actually forgot to bring me some of my food and while they say there is unlimited drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic (we were not drinking) there was no way to order them. One huge rule in Japanese hospitality is you never pour your own drinks, here we could barely get a drink let along have any of the servers pour it for us.

Unless you really want to see a performance by Maikos and can't do it any other way (which is usually the case if you don't go at certain times of the year or don't have connections) there is no reason to waste your money on this joke of the Geiko culture and profession.
Written June 10, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

vladb
Boston, MA107 contributions
I have not stayed at the ryokan, so I am reviewing only the "Maiko Evening" event held there several time a week. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only opportunity in Kyoto to interact with real Maiko for anyone who is not a VIP businessman.
It's not a tourist trap for Westerners either - the setting is quite intimate, at 28 maximum capacity (7 tables, 4 seats each). In fact, on the night of our visit, we were the only non-Japanese in the room. And as proof that there's nothing overtly sexual about Maiko or Geiko these days, the attendance included a family with a 10 year old boy, a group of female school teachers, and two Buddhist monks! The kaiseki dinner was on par with what we had in other highly-rated places in the city. Unlimited beverage service (including alcohol) was included in the total price.
During our visit we were extremely lucky to also meet a Geisha (Geiko), as usually only Maiko participate in the event. The reason for the Geiko's appearance might have been a crew from a Japanese Tea company photographing part of their ad campaign. Since there is also an older Geisha who sings and plays the shamisen (three-stringed musical instrument), we ended up meeting two Geiko and a Maiko that evening!
The 2-hour dinner consists roughly of 4 parts - first, the host explains (in both Japanese and English), the various aspects of Maiko/Geiko tradition - then, the 2 Maiko (or Maiko and Geiko, if you lucky as we were), perform several dances, while the older Geiko accompanies them on the shamisen and sings. The Maiko and Geiko then go around the tables and make conversation. In our case, the Geiko did not speak English and the host acted as interpreter. Some of our questions, unfortunately, got "lost in translation", but it was still an amazing conversation. The Maiko was incredibly sweet and spoke English well enough to talk to us on her own. The last part of the evening were drinking games - everyone who wanted to, got a chance to play. I will not spoil them for you, but suffice it to say that non-alcoholic drinks were an option, and that everyone enjoyed themselves immensely - the women in the audience just as well as men.
To sum it up, the dinner was the highlight of our trip to Japan, not tacky or gimmicky at all, and worth the price to experience this unique cultural heritage.
Written January 8, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Kathy D
3 contributions
Family
This place provided a wonderful opportunity to see real geishas performing and chat with them during the evening. Had a great time, until I reviewed the dinner menu. The menu included Sea bream in starchy SHARK FIN sauce. Needless to say, I did not eat it. For those not aware, Shark finning is generally an Oriental thing and involves removing fins from sharks, often while the shark is alive. The sharks are usually discarded still alive but without their fins. Unable to swim, they sink to the bottom of the ocean and die of suffocation or are eaten by other predators.

So much was great about this evening, but what should have been a 5 rating is now a 3 at best. I urge the restaurant to remove this item from it's offering,
Written September 6, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

yosizin
1 contribution
Friends
The four of us have attended the Maiko Dinner Show at Gion Hatanaka on 22 April 2016. Considering the excellent reviews and the price we paid the experience was truly disappointing. First, it was very crowded and poorly conducted. We hardly had an opportunity to convert with the Maiko and the moderator was very bad. Second, the food was hardly eatable, especially for a place in this level. The only good thing that might be said about this dinner is that the alcohol was free. Finally, our overall impression was of a very truistic, even infantile event, with an exaggerated price.
Written May 5, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Blaze Tours and Travels Pvt. Ltd.
Mumbai, India197 contributions
Family
I really didn't know what to expect when I booked the Kyoto Cuisine & Maiko Evening directly with Satomi Hatanaka, the charming owner of Gion Hatanaka for myself, my husband and our 16 & 11 year old daughters. Truthfully, I thought we'd just be enjoying a traditional Japanese dinner while being entertained by beautifully bedecked Maiko, but what we became a part of on that chilly April evening at the Gion Hatanaka, more than exceeded my expectations!
The ease of the email correspondence between myself and Satomi and the warm welcome we received by her personally and members of her staff as soon as we entered Gion Hatanaka, kicked started what was to be an amazing evening!
Just before the show begins, one has to remove one's footwear and enter a small rectangular room with just 8 tables [which can accommodate a maximum of 4-6 people depending on the table size], all arranged in a U shape. In the middle of the U, is the 'stage' which consists of tatami mats laid out on the floor, erect painted screens and a few strategically placed microphones and candles.
The moment one is seated at the table, course after course of colourful, exquisite Kyoto cuisine, mostly in delightful Bento boxes is served to you by courteous and silent servers, who make sure your glass is always topped up with your preferred drinks.
Right at the start of the performance one learns about the initiation of the Maiko and what it takes for her to become a Geiko. The intricacies of their attire, hair ornaments and duties are explained. One learns why the Maiko and Geiko paint their faces, necks and parts of their backs. The Maiko and Geiko then demonstrate a few of their performance skills and later invite the audience to participate in playing witty and unique games with them. The winners get prizes and the losers have to have a shot of sake or a soft drink, be it a Maiko, Geiko or a member of the audience! My daughters each won a pair of authentic Japanese chopsticks and it was fun to see the sporting Maiko have a shot of Coca Cola, twice!
The highlights of the evening include a conversation with the Maiko and Gaiko who rotate themselves and interact with every table with the help of interpreters. At our table we were privileged to have a 17 year old Maiko, who my daughters no doubt had many questions for. Meeting a 93 year old Geiko was jaw dropping as well! Poised and elegant with salt and pepper hair, she didn't look a day over 70!
Before it is time to bid adieu to the Maiko and Geiko, everyone is allowed to take photographs with them, using their own phones or cameras. No one is hurried up or jostled. I remember we each had a mobile phone and were allowed to take as many photos as we wanted. However physical contact with the Maiko or Geiko is strictly forbidden. One can stand or kneel beside them.
As Gion Hatanaka puts a cap on the amount of diners it takes in every night, the atmosphere makes for an intimate experience. Not for a moment is one made to feel left out of the going ons in the room, be it the food and drink service or photographs and interaction at the stage and table with the Maiko and Geiko.
It is said that Kyoto produced the most beautiful and talented Geisha Japan had ever seen. After spending an evening at Gion Hatanaka, I guarantee you will vociferously agree!
Tip:- An exciting way to wrap up the evening, would be to meander through neighboring Mayurama Park, especially during the Sakura season, as we did, to view amongst others, the famous and truly spectacular, enormous "Weeping Cherry (Blossom) Tree".....
-Felicia Variava Albert, Managing Director, Blaze Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India
Written May 5, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

lajollatravels
La Jolla, CA365 contributions
This may be a first for me- a 5 star review for a restaurant where we didn't like the food, and 5 stars for a foreign attraction that only Westerners frequent.

Well make that a second- because Gion Hatanaka is the Kyoto version of the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo. At both places you go for the experience- and you go to have a very fun night.

There are not many Geiko (Geisha) or Maiko left in Gion. In the past there were thousands, but now there are fewer than 250.

A tremendous investment is made in their training and education- up to $500,000 over 6 years. They learn music, dancing, games, flower arranging, tea ceremony, calligraphy, painting and the art of entertainment. They also perfect their elaborate dress and hairstyles.

If one were able to secure an invitation to an exclusive tea house for a Geiko entertainment it would cost over $2000 per person. So the fact that Gion Hatanaka provides an evening with authentic Geiko and Maiko at about $180 per person including drinks is a lucky option for visitors to Kyoto.

On the evening we attended there was one Geiko and two Maiko plus an entertaining (if somewhat corny) host.

We were a little disappointed at first when we saw that it was only Westerners (mostly Americans) in the audience and when we tasted the mediocre food (think dinner theater fare in the US but Japanese style) We also are not generally fans of shared tables, so we were worried that the evening would be a bust.

But our fears dissipated as the evening went on and we allowed ourselves to immerse ourselves and enjoy the entertainment.

The performance by the Geiko and Maiko was fantastic. The Geiko played a shamisen while the Maiko danced and it was our first time hearing that instrument played in person. It was hauntingly lovely and something rare to see.

One thing we like about Gion Hatanaka is that they allow patrons to take photos. Even if you happened upon a genuine Geiko or Maiko on the streets of Gion (most are not- just women dressed in costumes) you are not supposed to take photos of them.

The part of the evening we weren't really expecting to enjoy so much were the drinking games. The most fun was Tora, Tora, Tora (Tiger -Tiger-Tiger ) a Japanese combination of Rock-Scissors-Paper and charades.

The Maiko and a guest from the audience hide behind each side of a screen. A song is sung, at the end of the song each player must creep out from behind the screen while assuming one of three roles – Samurai , Old Woman or Tiger. This makes the game a very elaborate form of rock paper scissors; the Samurai beats the Tiger- the Tiger eats the old woman, but as his mother- the Old Woman beats the Samurai. The loser must take a drink.

It was a tremendous amount of fun.

Enhancing our experience was the lovely and charming Maiko- Koharu- who conquered our shyness and convinced us to join in the fun.
After chatting with her (the MC translated) we had great respect for her art.

We would have been sad to travel all the way to Kyoto and miss experiencing this part of the culture.
Written November 24, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

LAtraveler007_11
Los Angeles, CA109 contributions
The chef unfortunately serves shark fin soup, which a lot of us are opposed to due to the way in which the commercial shark finning industry operates. The food was otherwise ok, not quite up to expected kaiseki standards. The show was actually excellent, with very personable and entertaining maiko performers. I know that at least two of our party would not have attended if we knew they were going to serve shark fin soup.
Written November 28, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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