It Could Only Happen To Me – Gatecrashing a Geisha tea party

The old ladies in front of me couldn’t stop giggling. Whether it was because they were excited about what was to come or just amused by the sight of the only foreigner in the entire theatre, I wasn’t too sure.

I was in Japan and had serendipitously happened to be in Kyoto on the one weekend of the year when the newly qualified geishas showed off their skills of fan dancing and classical music to the general public.

After buying my ticket I was slightly confused as to why everyone had already started queuing, as the show didn’t start for a couple of hours. But with absolutely no Japanese, I was communicating through the language of
sign (which basically involved me pointing at my ticket and giving the thumbs
up) and the message I appeared to get back was that I was in the right place.

It was only as the queue began to snake up a wooden staircase that I began to feel that might not be the case. I suddenly noticed that the ladies around me had different coloured tickets and through a slight opening of a door I caught sight of the silky sleeve of a kimono and realised that a geisha was serving tea. Having paid for the cheapest ticket available (just a standing one) I knew I was definitely not supposed to be there.

But as I turned around and tried to make my excuses I was adopted by the ladies around me who pushed and shoved me to the front of the queue, shouting instructions. I was mortified. Luckily the lady in charge was lovely and after a lengthy conversation, in which both of us spoke in languages which the other couldn’t understand, I was admitted to the tea ceremony.

As I knelt down at the low table and watched the geisha, her face beautifully made up with white powder and her hair perfectly styled in a bun, stirring the tea in the specific way, I couldn’t believe my luck. Talk about being in the wrong place at the right time.

Ps. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos to hand at the moment, as they were taken way back in the days of film (old school), but will try and search some out.