The Miyako Odori is a Geisha dance performance held in the month of April in Kyoto.
Japan’s geisha are famous the world over, but as they usually perform only at small private gatherings in the tea houses of the geisha districts, it’s not often that visitors from overseas get to see them. Even having deep enough pockets to pay for a private geisha party isn’t good enough – you need an introduction from an existing client in order to gain admittance to the private and exclusive world of the geisha. Fortunately, Kyoto’s geisha communities put on annual public shows, which provide an opportunity for less-privileged ordinary people to see the geisha perform their arts. The most famous of these performances is the Miyako Odori, at which the geisha of the Gion Kobu geisha community perform.
The Miyako Odori offers a demonstration of tea ceremony before the show.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than 1000 years. In 1869, the capital moved to Tokyo after a short civil war that saw power returned to the Emperor.
Needless to say, Kyoto wasn't happy to be demoted. There are still old families in Kyoto who refuse to recognize Tokyo as the capital.
A few years after the move, the Geiko of Kyoto founded an annual event called Miyako Odori, literally The Dance of the Capital, to raise local spirits.
The Miyako Odori is still going strong today after 143 seasons. It's held in the hopes that the capital will return to Kyoto, a subject that still comes up from time to time.
Geiko are women trained in dance and music, with an emphasis on grace, beauty and dignity. (Kyoto geisha prefer to be called ‘geiko’ meaning ‘arts child’, rather than ‘geisha’, which means ‘arts person’.) Geiko communities are very traditional, and are governed by strict rules, and the Gion Kobu community is perhaps the most conservative of all. Geiko begin their careers as apprentices called ‘maiko’, usually aged fifteen. From then on, they move into a geiko house, and dedicate their lives to the geiko world. First they are trained in conduct becoming of a geiko – bowing deeply to show respect to their seniors, and undertaking everyday tasks with grace and elegance. They then move on to training in the geiko’s arts, such as music, dance and calligraphy, and they begin to join the geiko in entertaining clients in Kyoto’s teahouses. Around the age of twenty, maiko graduate from their apprenticeship, and become fully-fledged geiko.
The Gion Kaburenjo Theater is 10 minutes walk from Gion-Shijo station and a 10 minute walk from Kawaramachi station. It's directly beside Gion Corner.