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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ikuokaya Kyoto

幾岡屋

Ikuokaya has been doing business in the world-famous Gion district (home to maiko and geiko and high-culture nightlife) for more than 150 years. They specialize in kanzashi hair ornaments, fans, bags and accessories.

Kanzashi, Ikuokaya, Kyoto


Stepping into the shop, one enters the world of accessories that add to the exotic charm of the geiko: splendid, colorful kanzashi (hair pins), exquisitely designed handkerchiefs, little richly patterned silk bags with draw strings, sandalwood combs. Many of the patterns and designs express the seasonal elements for which Japan is so well known: flowers, bushes, and important symbols like the moon, pine trees, cranes and rabbits.

In a short interview a few years ago, Hiroshi Sakai, the 6th generation owner of Ikuokaya, gave us a peak into the private world of the geiko and maiko, and the world that his shop, the oldest of its kind in Japan, is an important part of.

JV: How did Ikuokaya first get started in this business?

HS: We have only been running the shop for the last two generations. The shop was founded by a Gion geiko. The second generation owner, also a geiko, was the junior partner of a famous geiko called Ikumatsu. She was the celebrated mistress of Katsura Kogoro, who played an important role in the founding of modern Japan during the Meiji Restoration (1868). Ikuokaya, which means "the teahouse of Iku," is named after her. The next owner, in the early Showa Period (1926-1989), almost went bankrupt and that was when my grandfather decided to take over the business and its debts. Since that time our family has managed the shop well.

JV: How has your business and the geiko/maiko world you are part of changed over your lifetime?

HS: Kyoto has changed a lot over the last 35 years. Many traditions have changed or been strongly influenced by modern lifestyles and convenience. For example, in the old days funerals were organized by and involved all the members of the family and many relatives. Today, there are companies that have taken over this role, probably because it is so much more convenient.

What has changed in this shop is not what we sell but who we sell to. When I was a little boy, the people who came to Ikuokaya were only people intimately involved with the world of the geiko. There were no tourists from far away places that wandered in. Today, there are less and less people of the geiko world, and more and more tourists from distant places, even distant countries.

JV: Why is your shop so popular with foreigners?

HS: Over the past 30 to 40 years, my father, the 5th generation owner of Ikuokaya, made a great effort to attract foreign visitors to our shop. He also told the people in our neighborhood that more and more foreigners would be entering our world, the world of the geiko that had been almost a secret society since the very beginning.

One of the things that I really admire about my father is that he tried so hard to interact with foreigners even though he does not speak English especially well. He feels that we can communicate with anyone, if we try to speak sincerely, from the heart. He says something to every foreigner that enters our shop, and has invited many foreigners to sleep over in our house. I saw those people when I was little. Now he is over 70 and he continues to speak with every foreigner that enters the shop. I think it is interesting, and I my father does too, that the Japanese government has started the "Visit Japan" campaign, which is what he has been promoting for so many years.

Ikuokaya is located on the south side of Shijo, east of Hanamikoji. Open 11am-7pm (closed Thursdays). Tel: 075 561 8087

Gion-Shijo Station is the nearest station.

© JapanVisitor.com

Ikuokaya
577-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa
Higashiyama-ku
Kyoto-shi
605-0074

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