Kyoto guide books inevitably name the Gion district as the prime spot to find geisha. However, there are 4 geisha districts in Kyoto.
1. GionGion is the largest and most exclusive geisha district in Japan. Ochaya in Gion are the exclusive haunt of connected, wealthy individuals in Japan. It's also common for foreign dignitaries and important customers to be invited.
For the general public, the best place to see geisha and maiko is the streets of Gion as they rush to and from work. There's also an annual performance of Gion's geisha called Miyako Odori (Cherry Blossom Dances). It's held each night in April at the historic Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater. It's been held each year since 1869.
2. MiyagawachōMiyagawacho has a large entertainment district along the banks of the Kamo river. There are several ochaya geisha establishments here. There's also a large Kabuki theatre (Minamiza theatre) in Miyagawacho that sometimes features geisha performances.
3. KamishichikenThere are around 25 maiko and geisha in Kamishichiken that work in 10 ochaya. The geisha in this district are known as excellent musicians.
4. PontochoPontocho is a narrow 600 meter (1/3 mile) long alleyway that has been serving up nightlife since 712. Geisha in the area practice their arts at the Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre. Twice a year they put on a performance for the public called the Kamogawa Odori (Kamo River Dance).