Discover the World of Maiko at Akita's Matsushita Complex
In the past the city of Akita used to be a thriving traditional entertainment district, scattered with an abidance of teahouses and local geisha artists ready to entertain their excited guests. Though over time the tradition of the geisha has thinned a little, there are ongoing efforts here in Akita and in wider Japan to revive and continue to encourage the unique tradition and incredibly culturally important geisha art. Anyone with a passing interest in Japan is familiar with geishas, but these days it’s the maiko that’s keeping this classic tradition alive.
Maikos are like apprentice geishas whose main roles include of performing songs, dances, and traditional Japanese instruments like the shamisen or the koto for visitors while they enjoy their feasts. Though over time many assumptions have been made about what a geisha/maiko actually does, their main duty is to share and encourage age old traditional Japanese art-forms for visitors and regulars alike.
In an attempt to revitalize the tradition of iconic Kawabata geisha (named after Kawabata St in Akita) Ms Chinatsu Mizuno, spearheaded the introduction of the Akita Maiko. After spending a considerable amount of time researching the role of the geisha in pre World War II Akita, Ms Mizuno discovered that there were around 200 professional geishas working in the area entertaining swarms of local Japanese patrons, not wanting the area to lose this iconic art, Ms Mizuno launched the Akita Maiko project, which in terms of tourism has paid off.
These days many tourists visit Akita in order to experience a traditional performance and meet a maiko in real life. Many of the area’s maiko are requested for performances in Japanese-style restaurants, hotels, venues and during tourist events. If you want to see an Akita Maiko performance check out the old Matsushita Japanese restaurant, located an easy 15 minute walk from Akita station. Opening in the early Taisho era (1912-1926) this valuable landmark, has been renovated and transformed into a complex that serves as a hub for experiencing the culture of Akita in a variety of different ways, the biggest draw card being the maiko.
One of the best most authentic ways you can enjoy the art of Akita’s maikos is by visiting the Akita maiko theatre. Here you can step back in time, and disconnect from modern day Japan. Watching an Akita maiko dance performance for an hour or so while eating a box lunch crafted with only the finest produce from around the area. If you’re travelling solo or as a group it doesn’t matter as the theater caters to all different clusters of people from across the world, just be sure to make a reservation.