Real Geisha Real Women is a 2009 documentary by Peter MacIntosh about the lives of several women in Kyoto, Japan of various generations who are or have been maiko and/or geiko (the Kyoto terms for geisha) as well as interviews with men who work alongside them.

Their stories are told in their own words as a series of vignettes without the use of a narrator. Rare footage of their journeys outside of Kyoto includes a hometown visit, a trip to Tokyo, as well as travels abroad.

Real Geisha Real Women (2009)
Directed, Written and Produced by Peter MacIntosh.
Director of Photography and Edited by John Wells

Running time: 52 min

People Profiled in this Film

This documentary was produced in 2008-9, and the status of some of the participants has changed in the years since.

Sakai Kojiro
酒井 小次郎
Age 84. Born and raised in Kyoto’s Gion district. Fifth-generation proprietor of “Ikuokaya” – a traditional hair ornament shop.
An 82-year-old geiko (Kyoto term for geisha) from Kyoto’s Miyagawa-cho district.
A former geiko and proprietress of the Harutomi ochaya (teahouse) in the Miyagawa-cho district of Kyoto.

A maiko in the Miyagawa-cho district of Kyoto.
A former maiko/geiko from the Miyagawa-cho district of Kyoto.
Horikiri Shuji
An Otokoshi (dresser) in Kyoto’s Miyagawa-cho.
A geiko in the Miyagawa-cho district of Kyoto.
A geiko from the Kamishichiken district of Kyoto.
A maiko from Kyoto’s Gion district.
A geiko and entrepreneur from Kyoto’s Gion district.

A former geiko from the Miyagawa-cho district of Kyoto.

Real Geisha Real Women Review in Kyoto Journal by Lucy Birmingham

#Review[T]hink geisha, and you’re bound to visualize an exotic creature from a languishing willow world with a secretive life hidden behind closed shoji. Films, television and books have perpetuated the geisha myth as temptress meant for pleasure. There has never been a film that unveils these artisans and entertainers as simply modern women — until now. “Real Geisha Real Women,” is a remarkable documentary that opens the shojifor us all, if only for 52-minutes. It allows us a peek into the private lives of 10 active and retired Kyoto geisha (known as geiko in the ancient capital) and maiko (apprentice geisha). Two men who work among them also add their historical and insider perspectives.