The Michelin editor asked a 2nd question: What takes place at a banquet with Geisha. Following is the response I prepared:
*What kind of entertainment do Geisha provide at banquets?
Traditional Song and Dance: Usually the Geisha begin their entertainment with songs performed on the banquet room’s stage. There will typically be three ladies: one playing the shamisen and singing, one playing the taiko drums, and one dancing. They generally play two or three songs, such as ‘Chikuma Ko-Uta’, a collection of short songs about the Chikuma River which runs through the middle of our onsen. The flow of the river is poetically linked to love and romance in the lyrics of the songs. Another song is ‘Kapore’, which is an energetic song that raises the spirits of the audience.
Entertaining Conversation: After performing a few songs, the Geisha will then move around the room making conversation with and pouring beer for the guests. At these banquets, the guests are seated on the tatami mat floor and have individual tables called ‘o-zen’. The o-zen are often arranged in a u-shape with everyone facing the center. The Geisha would be in the center and greet each guest one-by-one, top off his glass of beer and make fun, facetious conversation.
Parlor Games: Depending on how the banquet progresses, sometimes the Geisha will engage in parlor games with the guests. The games are often set to shamisen and song. One typical game is a version of rock-paper-scissors with an Oba (grandmother), Tora (tiger) and rifleman. The Rifleman beats the tiger but is subservient to the Oba. The tiger in turn can eat the Oba. In this game, the loser has to drink a glass of beer. Another game is ‘Hide the Flower’ with the Geisha hiding a flower decoration under one of three tea cups and the guest has to guess which cup. Whoever loses has to drink more beer.
In short, if you arrange for a Geisha to come to a banquet, you can expect to be enjoy their traditional song and dance and to be entertained with their charming conversation and fun drinking games, creating a relaxing, pleasurable atmosphere for you and your fellow guests.