One of Nagano’s “Treasures” — The Togura Kamiyamada Onsen Geisha

December 5th, 2011 by
Category: Experience, Information, Onsens (Hot Springs)

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 Togura Kamiyamada Onsen in Chikuma City

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, live geisha entertainment to the guests.

First Tamako-san performed dances to a couple of songs with Harugoma-san accompanying on shamisen.  (One 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!

Trying to Beat the Geisha

Trying to Beat the Geisha

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.

Name Kamiyamada-Togura Geisha Guild (上山田戸倉芸寮組合) 
Description of business Public bath house
Address 2-9-1 Kamiyamada Onsen, Chikuma City 389-0821
TEL/ Reservations (026)276-1351  NOTE:  Reservations can be made through your Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen ryokan.  Reservations need to be made in advance.
URL (Japanese)
Description Togura Kamiyamada Onsen has approximately 35 active Geisha.  They are typically called to liven up dinner banquets with lively, colorful conversation and warm hospitality.  By request, they can also perform songs and dances as well as engage the guests in parlor games.  For peformances, the ‘tachikata’  (dancers) are accompanied by the ‘jikata’ (shamisen and taiko players).  Minimum of 2 (1 tachikata and 1 jikata) recommended for performances.
Rates 4,500 yen per half hour, per Geisha, minimum 2 hours.
Mini-Performances For guests that can be flexible with their banquet times, Geisha entertainment can be arranged for shorter time periods prior to their other engagements for a lower rate, typically a 30-40 minute period starting at 5:30-6:00pm for 10,000 yen per Geisha.  Inquire with your Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen ryokan.
General info for Chikuma City Chikuma City on Wikitravel

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