The Geishas of Kyoto

I saw the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha, and because of that, I had always wanted to see the place where Geishas live and work in Kyoto.  I was lucky to have that opportunity while we were visiting Japan.  There's a region of Kyoto, called Gion, where most of the Geishas can be found.  The travel books will tell you to hang out there, mostly in the evening, with the hope of catching a glimpse of one of these fascinating ladies.

During April they hold a month long performance season, Miyako-Odori.  Called the Cherry Blossom dance, it is an amazing array of talented performers in their dance festival.  I used our hotel concierge to get tickets to the performance, which included a brief tea ceremony at the beginning.  These "special class" tickets were about $45 each.  You can call the theater direct, but the recording when I called was in Japanese, and they don't take credit cards anyway.  Through the concierge, I was able to have the hotel pay for the tickets and when we arrived, I paid the concierge with cash.  If you find yourself in Japan while you are reading this, you can also go to the ticket window and see if same day performance tickets are available.  Because we were there at the peak of cherry blossoms, the theater had only a few empty seats, but it says they hold 10% of the tickets for window purchases.  I was also lucky enough to attend with my pen pal, Mariko.  There are many Japanese people who have never seen such a performance, so it was just as interesting for her.

When we arrived, we were allowed to wander through the garden outside the Kaburenjo theater.  It's a lovely green place with traditional Japanese plants, cherry trees, moss, and water features including koi fish.

This video is from the tea ceremony.  The Geisha, or Geiko in Japanese, has to take lessons to learn all the steps.  A Maiko is an apprentice Geiko who will also learn to do this before she becomes a Geiko.

And here's the treat we were served with the tea (that tasted like grass by the way).  It was filled with a gooey fruit.  Isn't it pretty?  Then we got to keep the plate as a souvenir.
Here are some photos from the program.  Cameras weren't allowed in the Kaburenjo theater, so these are photos they provided.  There were 60 performers!  Some played instruments, sang, or danced.  Even the older women were involved in the performance.  Some of the hour long performance was group dancing.  Then there were dramatic interpretations of folk stories.  It was all sung in Japanese, but even so, it was interesting.  I could follow along with the story.
The seasonal kimono 
Notice the white painted neck


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