Gion Corner was founded in the 1960's specifically as a tourist attraction, to promote traditional Japan to visitors without forcing them to go through the sometimes-daunting task of seeking performances out individually. As we discovered, it is not easy even for native Japanese to find information on attending a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or certainly to see a dance performance by maiko. So Gion Corner was set up to showcase these arts, and one of their presentations compacts seven of these art forms into one 50 minute show. They also offer a longer tea ceremony, but we didn't stay for that (it's an additional 1,500 yen, if I remember correctly).
I was actually pretty skeptical that we'd get anything meaningful out of such a short presentation, and it is true that it goes by very quickly. There are even overlapping parts that split your attention (the tea ceremony, koto performance and flower arrangement all take place simultaneously, for example). However, it's definitely worth it if for no other reason than the kyo-mai dance - something you will probably never have the chance to see in person otherwise, no matter how hard you try. Check out the small video we took below:
I considered everything else a bonus, but I also particularly enjoyed the koto playing - truly a beautiful-sounding instrument when heard live! - and flower arrangement. So it was money and time well-spent.
If you're interested, here's a PDF of the English program for the show we went to:
And one for all the Japanese-speaking readers here (and I know you're out there):
Lastly, if you're not familiar with the history of geisha in Japan, I recommend reading the Wikipedia article on the subject. There are many misconceptions about geisha and maiko among westerners, and it helps before visiting Kyoto to know their true nature. It really is a special thing to see one even among Japanese people, as very few true geisha still exist outside Kyoto. It also helps to know the difference between a real geisha or maiko and a "piano bar geisha" - the Wikipedia article calls them "onsen geisha" but they exist in central cities as well, not just at hot springs. It is fairly easy to tell the difference if you know what the geisha profession is all about, and what a real geisha looks like. (And anyone who's seen the film "Memoirs of a Geisha" - whatever else you think of the movie - probably knows the difference already.)