While you may see many tourists dressed up in traditional Japanese attire roaming the streets of Kyoto, spotting a real geisha is much harder. Modern day geisha (known as maiko and geiko) can be seen performing at private events, parties, ryokans, and other venues. Hiring a geisha for a private performance can cost a considerable amount of money (starting around $1,000 or 110,000 Yen and higher). However, there are a few ways to see a geisha and even a performance without hurting the wallet.
Kyoto Dining with Maiko (about $200 or 19,000 Yen per person)
One opportunity to see modern geisha perform is by attending a special dinner. Gion Hatanaka offers dinner and drinks with service and performance by maiko. This is a great opportunity for a more personable experience.
Miyako Odori - Each Day of April in Kyoto
The Miyako Odori is a performance put on by many local geisha at The Kyoto Art Theater "Shunjuza." This is a great opportunity to see a large traditional performance for not a lot of money. They offer the same 50 minute show three times each day. Tickets are 3,500 Yen (about $31) or 4,500 Yen (about $40) with a tea ceremony before the show. Get tickets well in advance as these shows will generally sell out.
Kamogawa Odori - May 1 - 24th in Kyoto
The Kamogawa Odori is another large geisha performance held at the Pontochō Kaburenjō Theater in Kyoto. They also offer three showings a day. Ticket prices vary between 2,300 and 4,800 Yen (about $20 to $48). Their website is only in Japanese, but there are plenty of tour group companies that can book tickets for you.
Gion Odori - November 1 - 10th in Kyoto
The Gion Odori is a fall geisha performance held at Gion Kaikan. Tickets are around the same pricing as the other large spring geisha shows. You can buy tickets at the venue before or on the day of the show. Some tour group companies can also reserve tickets for you instead.
Walking along Hanamikoji Dori
The other way to spot geisha in Kyoto is to walk along Hanamikoji Dori south of Shijo Dori. This part of Gion is a main traffic area. You may be able to see a geisha walking between appointments in the evening. It is also a great area to see traditional style houses. Many of them have been converted to fine dining establishments.