Tanigawa is the only place in Osaka where you can enjoy an authentic geiko experience in the proper tradition. Geiko, or geisha as they are called in Tokyo, specialize in hospitality. Let’s enjoy a beautiful night of elegance in Japanese tradition.
Geiko are professional entertainers, having undergone rigorous training in the pursuit of traditional Japanese performing arts. Starting off as maiko, they hone their skills in dance, tea ceremony, and the like until they are qualified to become geiko or geisha. There is a common misconception overseas that geisha serve as courtesans, but that isn’t the case. They are strictly entertainers and to provide the proper level of service to their customers, they devote themselves to the craft.
▼Meeting point: Tanigawa teahouse, located in the back alleys near Nippombashi.
▼The geikos quietly enter.
▼They bow before serving nice, cold beers.
▼They’ll give you stickers with their names on them.
▼And sit by your side, so you can talk during your meal.
Dance from a geiko.
The geiko will perform an elegant dance to the backdrop of traditional Japanese music. With a gold partition in the background, she moves gracefully in sync to the sounds of a shamisen. Lose yourself in this moment of luxury.
▼Feel free to take lots of pictures!
▼One of the geiko dances as the other plays the shamisen, a traditional Japanese string instrument.
▼The way she uses the fans, they’re like fluttering butterflies.
Ozashiki asobi with a geiko!
After the performance is time for ozashiki asobi, a set of games that typically involve drinking. First game, the players take turns touching or picking up the object on the table. This is done to the rhythm of a song, konpira fune fune, played by the other geiko. The first person to make a mistake loses.
▼It sounds like an easy game, but it’s actually quite difficult. The tempo progressively gets faster.
▼The loser then has to drink.
Don’t be the one to spill!
In this next game, players take turns pouring sake into a cup. The one to cause it to overflow loses and has to drink it all. The sake is more difficult to pour than it seems, so controlling the amount takes a bit of getting used to. It’s a simple game, but very fun.
▼Even when it looked like it was about to overflow, it didn’t. The game continued for longer than expected.
▼The geiko may tickle you during your turn, so don’t forget that they’re there.
Tora Tora? Rock, paper, scissors!
Lastly, tora tora is a kind of rock, paper, scissors game. Each player stands on opposite sides of the partition and using their entire body assumes the form of an old lady (rock), tiger (paper), or samurai (scissors).
▼A friendly handshake across the partition before the game starts.
▼Two tigers. This time’s a draw.
▼Samurai (geiko) vs tiger (guest), victory goes to the geiko.
Memories with a geiko!
The 3 hours we spent at Tanigawa were very enjoyable. The conversations were fun, the geikos were not only good speakers, but great listeners. The dance was exquisitely choreographed, and timed perfectly in unison to the shamisen. The ozashiki asobi showed a more fun, playful side of the geiko. The hospitality they provide perfectly captures the essence of traditional Japanese culture. It’s definitely something worth experiencing!