The Niigata Saito Villa: Enjoy the Residence and Garden, and Participate in a Geigi Performance
Historic Estate of the Saito Clan
The Saito clan—one of Niigata’s three hugely successful merchant families—rose to prominence in the Meiji era and remained a powerhouse until the early Showa period. In 1918 the family built this lovely structure, graced by a magnificent garden, to serve as both residence and guest house. The building and grounds are now open to the general public.
The beautifully landscaped garden—the design of Tokyo-based Kamekichi Matsumoto—offers a different view to each room of the house. The views through the windows are best when sitting on the tatami mats—so please sit on the floor, relax, and enjoy.
While walking through the structure, take time to note the beautiful transom carvings, the meticulously designed bannisters, the paintings on the doors, and all of the other decorations.
And be sure to take a stroll along the paths of the garden to get a better look at the central pond and the many different types of trees and plants—including bamboo, plum trees, pines, and Japanese maples.
Set atop a sand hill near the sea, the grounds were designed to suggest a mountain ambiance, complete with artificial waterfalls and natural pine groves. Enjoy a different experience in each season: the early green of spring, the intense autumn foliage, and the snowscapes of winter.
And say hello visit the ancient turtle called Kamekichi, relaxing on the rocks in the pond. Perhaps the spirit of the landscaper lurks within its shell, as the first part of his name—kame—means turtle.
The Dances of the Elegant and Beautiful Furumachi Geigi
Niigata Hanamachi Chaya
The Niigata Hanamachi Chaya program offers a chance to be entertained by Furumachi geigi – the geisha of Niigata, whose history stretches back to the Edo period – amid the elegant surroundings of The Niigata Saito Villa. These are very popular events, as they are a rare opportunity to watch the performances of the Furumachi geigi and enjoy a unique atmosphere that can usually only be experienced at formal banquets.
Geigi are women who entertain guests at banquets, performing traditional Nihon buyo dances and playing parlor games called o-zashiki-asobi with the guests. Niigata, which has flourished as one of Japan’s leading port towns since the Edo period, was home to numerous Furumachi geigi, who would entertain guests at the many high-class ryotei restaurants in the city’s Furumachi district. The fame of the Furumachi geigi was such that Furumachi was ranked alongside Gion in Kyoto and Shimbashi in Tokyo as one of Japan’s main geisha entertainment districts, and this tradition survives to this day.
At the beginning of the event, the geigi arrive, wearing beautiful kimono and elaborate hair ornaments. They perform graceful Nihon-buyo dances, accompanied by shamisen music and singing. After that, to add to the party atmosphere, they play a game called “taruken” with the guests. This game involves playing “rock-paper-scissors” in time to a rhythm beaten out on a barrel. The loser has to turn around once on the spot before playing again. As the game progresses, the room echoes with the sound of guests laughing and clapping their hands in time with the beat. Anyone who wants to can join in, so don’t be shy in coming forward. Finally, the guests take a commemorative photograph with the geigi.
Green tea and Japanese sweets are provided to all guests. After that, why not wind down with a stroll through the lovely garden?
Teahouse Experience: Information and Reservations
- Event Schedule
See the Niigata Hanamachi Chaya leaflet (Apr–Jul 2020 issue) for details.
Make a reservation from here.
Website (Only in Japanese)
About this event, contact here:
Niigata Visitors & Convention Bureau
(Communication Available in Japanese or English)