Like Gion (Kyoto) and Shinbashi (Tokyo), Niigata’s Furumachi area has long been known as a famous geisha district. With 200 years of history, the Niigata Furumachi Geigi are an important cultural legacy from Niigata’s past as a port city.
We hope you’ll visit Niigata’s traditional Ryotei restaurants to savor fine local cuisine, history, and the captivating performances of Geigi dressed in lavish kimono.
The origins of the Niigata Furumachi Geigi go back nearly 200 years, to the Edo period. Niigata was flourishing as a major port-of-call and trade town on the Kitamaebune sea route. In time, a Geisha district formed, and Niigata’s Furumachi Geigi came to entertain guests with elegant performances.
Geigi are both a vital part of Niigata’s traditional heritage, and the symbol of the Furumachi Geisha District, where atmospheric streets of traditional Ryotei restaurants serve fresh, seasonal cuisine together with Japan’s best rice and local saké.
Niigata is home to the Ichiyama School of Japanese dance. Highly regarded for its artistry, Ichiyama is both Niigata City’s foremost Intangible Cultural Property and the only regional school of dance to boast over 120 years of history.
The Niigata Furumachi Geigi bring class and beauty to any banquet, entertaining guests with Ichiyama-style dance, song, shamisen, gestures, and artistry perfected through rigorous study.
Today, Geigi not only perform at traditional establishments, but also dance and teach about Geigi culture at conventions, act as models for tourism posters, and even make appearances at events outside of Niigata.
Representative Geigi songs include: The “Niigata Okesa,” which was brought by mariners traveling the Kitamaebune trade routes; “Minato Odori,” which was created as a prayer for the prosperity of Niigata’s port; “Shiki no Niigata,” which was written by Yaso Saijo and composed by Shinpei Nakayama during the Shin Minyo (“new folk song”) boom that started in the 1920s; and the “Niigata Kouta,” written by Hakushu Kitahara and made into a song to celebrate the completion of the 3rd Bandai Bridge. The Niigata Kouta contains a line that means, “Across the waves of the Sea of Japan, let our two shores prosper together.”
Almost all Ryotei in Niigata are open to first-time visitors, so there is no reason to worry about introductions.
It is not uncommon for couples or women to reserve Geigi for special occasions. Additionally, guests do not need to know any special manners to visit a Ryotei, so there is no need to feel anxious or embarrassed. If you have any questions or concerns, please just ask your server.
Geigi not only create an enjoyable atmosphere by performing and leading diners in traditional games but also speak in a gentle and charming Niigata dialect. We hope you will enjoy your Ryotei experience.