Secrets of Kyoto Geishas with Gavin Campbell - Context Travel

Secrets of Kyoto Geishas with Gavin Campbell

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Kyoto is a city of matchless beauty and cultural depth, and few embody those qualities better than the geisha. Meaning a "person of art," the geisha dedicate years to perfecting traditional skills, from music and dance to tea ceremony and flower arranging. The greatest geisha are quite literally living works of art. "She's a geisha all the way to her fingertips," people will say. But make no mistake: geisha are not wallflowers or demure playthings. To become a geisha requires drive, dedication, and determination.

For centuries the geisha world has been closed to all but a handful. This ensured discretion while also drawing an alluring veil over this "floating world." Our journey together takes us behind the fantasy into the dance studios, the dressing rooms, and the boarding houses where the geisha and their apprentices learn to weave a spell of beauty and enchantment. We learn about why women still choose this path, trace the profession's raucous and sometimes painful history, and follow contemporary women who, at the age of 15, begin a quest to join their name alongside those who proudly preserve one of Japan's greatest living arts: the Kyoto geisha.

Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, this interactive seminar is led by Gavin James Campbell, a Ph.D. professor of history at Doshisha University. Gavin has lived in Kyoto for 19 years and avidly participates in Kyoto geisha culture. He has also led Context tours in Kyoto for the last seven years, with a specialization in the "Gion Night Tour: Exploring the Geisha District."

Gavin received a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and came to Kyoto in 2001. He is a Ph.D. professor of history at Doshisha University. His teaching and research revolve around Japan's cultural encounters with the West, particularly during the Edo, Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa periods (1600-1940), and he has published on the history of foreign tourism and of Protestant missionaries in Japan. To further explore Japan's global cultural encounters, he is currently writing a book on the history of Japanese menswear from the 1600s through the early 20th century. He is also an expert on Kyoto geisha culture and a frequent participant in geisha entertainment.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.