Ochaya Shima is a historical geisha house in the Higashi Chaya-gai district of Kanazawa. The building is now a museum and gives visitors a look at the life of the geisha who once entertained here. Many of the former geisha houses in this area have been converted into guest houses or restaurants. However, this house is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting memories of the past and is now a nationally designated Important Cultural Asset.
Ochaya Shima was built in 1820 as part of the Higashi Kuruwa, an entertainment district for rich merchants and nobility. The word “chaya” means tea house and Ochaya Shima was one of many “chaya” built in this area. In fact these “tea houses”, served sake rice wine more than tea, and were mainly places where wealthy customers would be entertained by geisha with music, dance, poetry and drinking games!
The house has two levels, and features guest rooms on the upper floor, and the owner’s living area on the ground floor with an internal garden. There is also a dressing room for the geisha on the ground floor. Today the interiors appear much as they did when the house was first built with lacquered wooden surfaces and elegant furnishings. You can also view displays of accessories once worn by the geisha, tea ceremony utensils, and the musical instruments that the geisha played.
English information pamphlets are available for foreign visitors, but the individual displays have only Japanese explanations. For a small fee visitors can enjoy a cup of matcha green powdered tea and a sweet while dreaming of Ochaya Shima’s past. Tea with a dry sweet is 500 yen and tea with a fresh sweet is 700 yen.
Ochaya Shima is located in the Higashi Chaya-gai district. To get to the Higashi Chaya-gai district from Kanazawa Station take a Kanazawa Loop Bus to the Hashibacho bus stop. The bus takes 7 minutes and costs 200 yen. From Hashibacho bus stop, the Higashi Chaya-gai area is a 5 minute walk.
Open daily: 9.00 – 18.00
Adults: 500 yen
Children (under 16): 300 yen
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.