A group of researchers from overseas were in Japan on JAXA-related biz, and for the weekend they came up and spent the night here at Kamesei Ryokan.
What appealed to them the most about Nagano Prefecture?
Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City.
The snow monkeys in Jigokudani.
Togakushi and its ninjas.
For the group's dinner banquet, we invited Harugoma-san, the veteran shamisen player, and Tamako-san, one of the best dancers, to provide real geisha entertainment to the guests.
First Tamako-san performed dances to a couple of songs with Harugoma-san accompanying on shamisen. (A song about leaves falling from a 'momiji' Japanese maple tree and the other song dedicated to that most important element of banquets: sake.)
Then Tamako showed the guests how to dance the common bon-odori dance 'tankobushi', and we all joined in, making fools of ourselves dancing around the banquet room.
And finally, the geisha challenged the guests to a game of 'konpira-san', a geisha parlor (read, "drinking") game. I told the visitors that it's impossible to beat the geisha at this game. That encouraged everyone to try even harder. The game starts out simply enough timed to the strumming of the shamisen, but when Harugoma-san picks up the pace, watch out!
The guests were naturally very curious about the geisha world, and appreciated being able to ask questions (with me there to help interpret). But more than that, seeing their faces as they enjoyed watching and then actually participating in the dances as well as the excitement of the parlor game, it reinforced for me that these geisha ladies are pros at entertaining guests.
Kamiyamada's geisha are truly one of Nagano Prefecture's treasures.
The Kamiyamada-Togura Geisha Guild's normal rates are normally 4,500 yen per half hour, minimum 2 hours. However, in this case we had the banquet start early, and the geisha came early prior to another banquet engagement and entertained for 45 minutes for a special price of 10,000 yen. Reservations can be made in advance through your Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen ryokan.