Hanamachi (花街) , or flower town. The Geisha districts.
All of the Hanamachi were preceded by and should not be confused with traditional courtesan / prostitution districts known as Yukaku ( Pleasure quarter, Red-light district ), do bare this in mind. Maiko and Geiko have nothing to do with sex or sex intercouse, please understand this. Also, I will be calling them Geiko instead of Geisha since that is the name used in Kyoto and I will be talking only about the Hanamachi of Kyoto.
Find out more about Geisha and Maiko in my article about the Kyoto Geiko & Maiko !
Generally called "Kagai" instead of Hanamachi in Kyoto, Gokagai is the name that the whole Hanamachi of Kyoto recieves altogether. Although they were previously 6, Kyoto's Gokagai is composed of 5 currently active Hanamachi in the city. Shimabara, which was the sixth, can be still visited nowadays but it is sadly defunct, although very charming. The remaining Hanamachi are Gion Kobu, Gion Higashi, Miyagawa-cho, Kamishichiken and Ponto-cho.
Area: Pontocho, Gion Kobu, Gion Higashi and Miyagawacho. They are close to the Yasaka Shrine.- Source of both maps: maiko-kyoto.jp
Each district has a familiar crest called Kamon, which appear on Geiko's and Maiko's Kimono and lanterns ( try to find all of the Kamon in the pictures I provided down below :) ! ) and each district has a festival were Geiko and Maiko dance for the public called Odori. You can find the different Odori listed down below:
- Kitano Odori ( 北野をどり ) – Kamishichiken ( since 1953 ), Spring, varying dates, currently last week of March and first week of April
- Miyako Odori ( 都をどり ) – Gion Kōbu ( since 1872 ), all of April
- Kyō Odori ( 京をどり ) – Miyagawa-chō ( since the 1950s ), first 2 weeks of April
- Kamogawa Odori ( 鴨川をどり ) – Ponto-chō ( since 1872 ), most of May
- Gion Odori ( 祇園をどり ) – Gion Higashi, early November
!- Source: c1.staticflickr.com
As you can see, its coat of arms is linked to the 8 small towns in the street and contains the “甲” character in the center of 8 dumplings arranged in a circle shape, but do not mistake this with the Gion Higashi, listed down below.
Its coat of arms is, too, a dumplings arranged in a circle shape. The same as for Kobu, but there is no character inside the circle, so watch out!
- Source: http://muza-chan.net
At least, this district exists since the 16th century. The area is also home to the Kaburenjo Theatre, which is located at the Sanjo-Dori end of the street, it is hard to miss. This theatre is used as a practice hall for Geiko and Maiko, quite a dream!
Its coat of arms is truly different from all of the other Hanamachi, a very cute “Chidorimon” ( meaning “a plover bird” ), one of the attractions of the winter around Kamogawa River.
- Source: photos.smugmug.com
Its Kamon is Mitsuwa ( meaning “Three Rings” ). It came into use since the Meiji Period, and it is believed to symbolize three miniature shrines based on the old tale of Miyagawa but its origin is not 100% clear and you can find several theories on the Internet.
- Source: images6.fanpop.com
And last, but not least, its coat of arms or Kamon consists of Taiko Hideyoshi's favorite “Five Dumplings”. It is said that, when Taiko Hideyoshi held the Kitano Grand Tea Party, he was offered the famous Mitarashi dumplings. Interestingly, he loved them so much that he gave the special right to do business in them, he also shared the tea house for religious ceremonies so it is said that this story is the basis for the “Five Dumplings” coat of arms.
- Source: farm6.static.flickr.com
And, together, they build the famous Kyoto Gokagai!
That's all for now :) I hope that you found this interesting and that you learned something along the way!! Please like, comment and share if you liked it!
Thank you for reading and enjoy your visit to these famous Hanamachi!
~ You can learn more about Geiko and Maiko. Read my article and find out what you did not know about their mysteries!