Gion is Kyoto's old entertainment district with theatres, restaurants, and teahouses. With buildings that have wooden facades and flickering lanterns at the entrance, Gion is best known as geisha quarter. It is one of the last places in Japan to glimpse geisha and maiko (apprentices) with their faces painted white, always in beautiful shimmering kimono and wooden clogs.
The geisha system has emerged in the 17th century. The houses of the pleasure quarters offered banquets enhanced by courtesans adept at singing and dancing. The most skilled female entertainers become known as geiko (arts girl) and later as geisha (art person). In old days, her parents gave a girl at age of seven for a sum of money to a geisha house, which taught, trained, fed, and clothed her for a period of several years. Then she began earning money to repay her parents' debt and her education. Today, many of young girls still volunteer to become geisha, but only a few can survive the harsh training as maiko when they are schooled in dancing, singing, flower arranging, performing the tea ceremony and even in Japanese calligraphy.