Last year, I found out that some onsen towns had geisha (and still do!), and that other onsen towns have ski resorts (for example, Zao Onsen), and I wondered if any towns had both. As well as enjoying Japanese culture, I felt it'd make for a unique ski resort, which is a positive when skiing can be somewhat the same whereever you go in the world. However, I thought that I was the only person who'd be interested in both skiing and geisha, so I needn't bother looking.

Then, the other day I read about Sayuki performing at Niseko ski resort, and realized that maybe other people are interested in both things.

Now Niseko is one of the most popular ski resorts (at least with Aussies), but lacks heritage with regards to geisha. Not to mention an Aussie performing at a resort that has lots of Aussies seeming a bit ironic...

Are there other places where the skiing isn't necessarily as good, but has more heritage with geisha? Even places where geisha don't operate any more, but where I can learn about geisha houses that used to exist, would be of interest.

Seeing the Yamagata maiko (English page about Yamagata maiko, and Japanese page) is one possibility, as they operate in Zao Onsen and in other cities, but not being headquartered in Zao Onsen is a slight disadvantage.

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    Wow I always go to Yamagata because my best Japanese friend lives there. We went to a mixed onsen somewhere in the area once but I don't know about this other stuff. Let me check with my friend. Off-topic but my personal tip: Zao has cheesecake - not so easy to find in Japan! – hippietrail Mar 6 '13 at 11:56
  • @hippietrail Zao Onsen also has snow monsters. They were amazing. (I went skiing there last February) – Andrew Grimm Mar 6 '13 at 12:25
  • @hippietrail Just a nit, but cheesecake is actually quite popular and widely available, at least in the Tokyo area. – snogglethorpe Mar 8 '13 at 9:51

There are three or four geisha performing in Niseko as the Niseko geisha. Of course all of them are Japanese except Sayuki. Sayuki works with the Niseko geisha during the winters sometimes. But I have heard she also works with other ski resorts and their geisha communities too. Why don't you ask her on her web-site? www.sayuki.net.

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  • Do you happen to know whether it's unusual for geisha or their trainees to perform for a couple of months in a place other than where they usually live? – Andrew Grimm Mar 7 '13 at 8:26

there! I am the friend of hippietrail from Yamagata :-] I have never had fun with geisha performing though, I found some hotels you can see "maiko" in Zao.

http://www.zao.co.jp/lucent/ (English) http://www.zao.co.jp/jurin/ (English)

Check them out! and Good Luck!

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  • The links are not on english – Dirty-flow Mar 9 '13 at 10:44
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    @Dirty-flow the links are in Japanese, but they have links to third-party websites that are in English. BTW, I found out the hard way last February that with the Yamagata maiko, you have to book the maiko a few days in advance. – Andrew Grimm Mar 9 '13 at 11:06
  • I am sorry. They are too popular. lol – snowchild Mar 12 '13 at 2:28

One logical place to look for geishas at a ski resort would be Yuzawa, Niigata. Unfortunately, while there's plenty of skiing, there's no geisha quarters there any more, as Finding the fabled Snow Country states:

The novel, cited when Kawabata (1899-1972) won Japan’s first Nobel Prize for Literature, is set in the small hot-springs resort of Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture, and recounts the doomed love affair between a Tokyo dilettante and a mountain geisha in the harsh, cold beauty of one of the snowiest regions in the nation.


Pages later, guests in the resort enjoy the Western pursuits of skiing and hiking before relaxing in the bath, and the protagonist flees his geisha lover by the new train line through the mountains, returning to Tokyo.


“The last tea house closed 10 years ago,” said Takako Nagumo of the Yuzawa Town History Museum. “There wasn’t any place to learn to dance or play shamisen, so the last of the geisha split up.” The museum has some of those old traces: photos of geisha, ancient wooden skis and snowshoes, woven straw snow-jackets shaped like little roofs. There aren’t many signs in English, and I left their exhibits of old houses and geisha quarters a little sad that that way of life now only exists in a museum.

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