Portland, OR. Portland Japanese Garden Board of Trustees President, Robert Zagunis and his wife, Deborah hosted three famous Japanese geishas for special luncheon at their Lake Oswego home. The benefit luncheon on September 4th, honored the authentic geishas from Kyoto, Japan. (Photo credit, Jonathan Ley)

Bee de Weese and Doug de Weese visit with a geisha in Lake Oswego.

The gathering in Lake Oswego begins at the Zagunis home where one geiko (Kyoto term for geisha) and two maiko (geisha in training) greet guests and posed for photographs.

A geisha is a woman highly trained in the arts of music, dance and entertainment. Geisha is Japanese for “person of art.” She spends many years learning to play various musical instruments, sing, dance and be the perfect hostess. Miehina, Kanako, and Konami performed, “Geisha: Unraveling the Art and Mystery” later that evening to a sold-out crowd at Portland Japanese Garden. The trio performed traditional dance and music, answered questions, and played classic geisha games with the public.

Miehina (geiko), who is pictured in the center in the green kimono, was born in Kyoto and is considered a “star” there. She is hired throughout Japan for her dancing and shamisen (three-stringed traditional instrument) music skills.

Portland Japanese Garden Board of Trustees President, Robert Zagunis plays traditional Japanese game with geisha.

The dance of the geisha is a subtle, stylized, and controlled form of dance. It is extremely disciplined, similar to t’ai chi. Every dance uses gestures to tell a story.

Portland Japanese Garden’s goal has been to offer intimate gatherings for first-hand interaction with geisha to learn more about their history and something of the geisha’s ethos beyond garments and accessories. The aim was to make all of the geisha events not only educational, but also cultural as well as artistic to bring out the best of what geisha culture and traditions have to offer our refined audience in Portland.

The Japan Foundation in Los Angeles, along with geisha expert Peter MacIntosh and Lucy Birmingham, approached Portland Japanese Garden with the idea of bringing the geisha from Kyoto to the United States, for a series of cultural events across the West Coast. For their inaugural program, the geishas are traveling from Portland to Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and Pasadena.

From the Portland Japanese Garden:

Portland Japanese Garden is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1963 as a place for cross-cultural understanding following World War II. Since opening year-round to visitors in 1967, Portland Japanese Garden has become a global destination for Japanese art, nature, and peace in Portland, Oregon. It is considered the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan and the foremost Japanese cultural organization in North America.


There are 12 acres with 8 gardens.

Address: 611 SW Kingston Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97205

Adult Admission: $18.95 

Website: japanesegarden.org