Somaro (相馬樓) is a traditional tea house located in Sakata City. It was originally named Somaya during the time when Sakata prospered in shipping. Dating back 200 years, the area was once bustling with people involved with shipping. Somaya was considered famous throughout Japan as a restaurant with excellent cuisine. In 2000, Somaya was renovated and renamed as Somaro. Now, you can visit Somaro for delicious bento boxed lunches and entertaining maiko (geisha apprentice) performances.
Today, I went with my friends for a private event, which included bento boxed lunches. Lunch starts at noon and the performance begins later (12:30). This unique experience will cost you ¥3,500 ($30 USD). If you only want to see the performance, it will cost ¥300 extra on top of the general admission fee of ¥700 (¥1,000 in total). My friends and I arrived early and we were greeted by one maiko and a few employees. Sidenote: I have been told many times that I look Japanese, so it throws people off when I speak English. So, I surprised them when I popped my head through the door and spoke English to them. But the employees spoke English well. Anyway, we were directed to another room after paying. The “waiting room” was pretty cool because they had a large and extensive display of dolls. When it was time for lunch, we were moved to another room on the third floor. Our bento boxed lunches were waiting for us once we entered the room. What was nice about this place is that they can accommodate guests with certain dietary needs.
Our bento boxed lunches were delicious! However, I cannot tell what I ate because the menu was in Japanese. But trust me, it was amazing! After eating, one of the employees introduced the maikos and told us that we were not allowed to take photos during the performance. But we were able to take pictures with maikos after the performance. From what I was told, the maikos spend hours practicing dancing and singing. During the performance, I noticed that their movements were precise as they dance to a Japanese guitar (samisen). You can tell that they worked hard. It’s difficult to explain but it means that you should visit Somaro in Sakata City to see it yourself.
*I received special permission to take photos.