Somaro 

Maiko Teahouse, Sakata City 

The History of Somaro

A Sakata Maiko enjoying tea by the garden.

 

Dating back over 200 years, Sōmarō is a Maiko tea house and Hina Doll Gallery in the heart of Sakata.  It's best known for its daily dance performances by Sakata Maiko (trainee Geisha), stunning artwork by famed artist Takehisa Yumeji, and beautiful architecture and design with a direct influence from Kyōto.

A map of Somaro's interior.

 

The historic buildings that were originally built during the Edo period (1603-1867) maintain a traditional Japanese atmosphere and have been updated as recently as 2000 by Chingyo Izumi.

With its many tearooms, Japanese gardens, performances, and art exhibits; Somaro is the perfect place to visit during your visit to Sakata City.  

History 

Once known as Soma-ya, Somaro served as an entertainment hub from when Sakata City prospered as a bustling port city with trade ties across the nation during the Edo Period centuries ago. 

During the 1600s, the Tokugawa Shogunate commissioned the Shonai region to be a producer of rice allowing Sakata to prosper greatly.  Japan Heritage Kitamaebune ships were used to trade rice and safflower to Edo (modern-day Tōkyo), Osaka, Kyoto, and other regions all around Honshu in return for salt and cotton. Perhaps the most remarkable thing traded on the Kitamaebune ships was the Geisha and Maiko culture of Kyoto that materialized in the form of Soma-ya. 

With its excellent cuisine, sophisticated style, and over 150 maiko and geisha, Soma-ya was known as the finest restaurant in this region of Shonai and a premier spot for merchants and government officials.  Additionally, Soma-ya was a private establishment with invitations needed to enter.

During the Shonai Earthquake in 1895, all of Soma-ya except for the white storehouse was destroyed.  The current structure of Somaro was rebuilt around this building which you can still enter today.  

 

Following WWII, Soma-ya began to decline and closed in 1995.  

However, recognized as an important cultural asset, Nitta Kaichi and his company Hiraboku took up the task of restoring and reopening Soma-ya.  Enlisting artisans and specialists from across the country, Mr. Kaichi restored Soma-ya to its original splendor and renamed it Somaro during its reopening in 2000.

A map of Somaro's interior.

One of the many elegant tearooms of Somaro.

A Sakata Maiko performing Sakata Jinku.

Some of the beautiful artwork that can be found throughout Somaro.  

Somaro is now a popular tourist spot for travelers across Japan.  With a recent visit from an official delegation from the United Nations, Somaro also strives to be an international tourism spot in time for the 2020 olympics.  

Taleb Rifai, head of the United Nations World Tourism Organization during his visit in 2017.  

In addition to Somaro's renovations, a maiko training organization was also established within Somaro.  Maiko must go through six months of intensive traning in dance, singing, shamisen (Japanese guitar), and numerous other fine etiquette before they may perform in front of guests.