One of only three chaya-gai (geisha districts) in Japan to be listed as a cultural assets, Kanazawa’s Higashi Chaya has changed little since its heyday in the early 19th Century. Not only are the buildings a beautifully preserved remnant of the old Japan, geisha still live and work here, and occasionally can be seen out on the streets on their way to an engagement.
The Higashi Chaya is also home to Shima, a former geisha house which can be visited (from 9a.m. to 6p.m. and for 400 yen), Kaikarō, another modernised geisha house across the street (same hours, 700 yen) and the Sakuda Gold Leaf Company (9a.m. to 6p.m.) where you can observe the process, pick up souvenirs, marvel at the gold flakes in your tea, and use the gold-plated washrooms upstairs.