Machiai-chaya (tea houses that rented rooms in which visitors and geisha could amuse themselves) (待合茶屋)

Machiai-chaya is an industry which offers rental rooms used for waiting for others and gatherings. It is abbreviated as machiai. Although it is also abbreviated as chaya, we should pay attention not to confuse machiai-chaya with other styles of chaya. For instance, chaya refers to an erotic teahouse (employing prostitutes) in Osaka. A shop selling tea leaves is now called ha-chaya, and a usual teahouse is called mizu-chaya or kake-chaya. Every 'teahouse' appearing in a series of drama in which lovers commit a double suicide written by Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU refers to an erotic teahouse.

Counted among what are called three major industries along with ryotei (fancy Japanese-style restaurant) and okiya (geisha dwelling), machiai-chaya is mainly used for pursuing pleasures with geisha girls, and eating and drinking.

With the equipment of bedding, machiai-chaya was also used for sleeping with a geisha girl or a prostitute (under the staff dispatching system). At present, however, machiai-chaya is not used in such a way, because prostitution is now prohibited, and those types of machiai-chaya are not needed in current society. As stated above, machiai-chaya is now used for eating and drinking, and having a good time with geisha girls.

When people use Machiai-chaya for drinking and eating, they cannot order dishes directly to Machiai-chaya except beverages, because Machiai-chaya are not allowed to have kitchens for cooking dishes to serve. Therefore, people need to order dishes from caterers and other restaurants. As a result, machiai-chaya are frequently used as a place not only for a party but also for a party after a party.

As a measure to deal with economic downturn and to attract tourists, both machiai and chaya nationwide have become available to customers who visit there for the first time. However, many chaya in Kyoto refuse first-time customers, saying that customers without introduction from somebody are not allowed to enter their facilities.