Humanity expressed



Tips from the smartest guidebooks





Where the Geisha (Still) Are

Geisha are rare these days and most—but not all—chances to see them dance are costly

Rough Guide to Tokyo, 8th edition

“LESS THAN A century ago,” says the 8th edition of the Rough Guide to Tokyo, “geisha—female performers of traditional music and dance—were a common sight round certain areas of Tokyo.” Several city districts had quarters where geisha lived and entertained clients. Today, however, even in Mukojima, once the largest of these districts, the numbers are down substantially and “it’s thought that there are only around 600 geisha practicing their arts nationwide.” As a result, says the guidebook, “an audience with a geisha is far from being a cheap affair, costing in the region of ¥50,000 to ¥100,000.”

There are less costly opportunities to see geisha dance performances, though. Top hotels often have events during cherry blossom season (late March, early April) for ¥10,000 or less, and traditional theatres, including the Shimbashi Embujo (, in Japanese only), sometimes host geisha shows. The tourist centre in Asakusa, a neighbourhood the guidebook says scores highly “for sheer charm,” sometimes has weekend performances. The centre is in front of Asakusa’s biggest attraction, Tokyo’s most venerable Buddhist temple, Senso-ji.

If you’re in town the third weekend in May, when Tokyo’s “most boisterous festival,” the Sanja Matsuri, takes place, you can see geisha for free during the festival’s parade through Asakura.

For those into cosplay, the Studio Geisha Café ( in the Ryogoku area “will doll you up with immaculate make-up for a photo-shoot; it’ll cost around ¥15,000.”









George Town



Port Louis



A heads-up of what’s new and what’s coming




23 November 2020

Beethoven’s 250th Birthday


Many planned events delayed, cancelled; go visit his homes instead


LUDWIG VAN Beethoven was supposed to have quite the 250th birthday party in 2020. Internationally, major events were scheduled as far from his hometown as Japan. Marin Alsop, music director of the symphony orchestras in Baltimore and Sao Paulo, had intended to conduct his Ninth Symphony in New Zealand, the United States, Brazil, England, Austria, Australia and South Africa. In Bonn, Germany, where Beethoven was born (baptized 17 December 1770), a year-long programme of 300 concerts, exhibitions, dance and theatre performances was planned. Vienna, where the composer spent most of his career, had a similarly impressive calendar set, including three staged versions of his opera Fidelio and special shows at the National Library, Leopold Museum and House of Music.




16 November 2020

Machu Picchu Again Welcoming Visitors


Peru has reopened several Inca sites including its most popular, Machu Picchu


MACHU PICCHU, Peru’s most popular tourist destination, reopened 1 November 2020 after an eight-month shutdown due to covid-19. Used to receiving 1.5 million visitors a year, it has had its capacity reduced by 70 per cent to accommodate physical-distancing rules, limiting the number of daily sightseers to just 675, and no groups larger than eight. Everyone must have their temperature taken before entering and wear a mask throughout their visit.




15 November 2020

Secret Swiss Fortification Opens to the Public


Fort de Chillon, opposite 12th-century Château de Chillon, was part of WWII defences


FROM THE END of November 2020 the Swiss will open the defences carved into the rock opposite the 12th-century Château de Chillon during the Second World War. The tunnels and caverns were part of the “national redoubt,” a series of fortifications begun in the 1880s to defend Switzerland by denying an invader access to the country by controlling its mountain passes. The Fort de Chillon works were constructed in 1941-2, when the country was surrounded by Axis powers, as the system’s western gateway. It had a garrison of more than 100 soldiers.




23 October 2020

Praise for Artemisia Gentileschi Exhibition


National Gallery’s first major show since covid-19 struck gets rave reviews


THE FIRST MAJOR exhibition at London’s National Gallery since covid-19 struck in March 2020 has opened to five-star reviews from the Telegraph, the Times, the Guardian, the Evening Standard and the BBC.

More Nota Bene


Most recent



Port Arthur, TAS

Port Arthur a Pretty Site for Punishment 19th-century Australian penal colony retains charms, horrors


Port Arthur, TAS






St. Helena








RSS logo

Culture Locker
CL chest
The Archives

202 stories from around the world

Most Enjoyed

Guide Lights
GL bookshelf
The Library

Recommendations from 363 of the smartest guidebooks