Gion Odori, Traditional Japanese Autumn Dance of Geisha

  • One of the traditional dances you can enjoy in Kyoto during the fall season is Gion Odori. Odori means dance, while Gion is a very popular Geisha district in Kyoto. In fact, in the novel Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, most of the settings take place in Gion.


    Gion Odori is an interesting autumn dance performed by maiko and geiko of the Gion Higashi geisha district. It is held at the Gion Kaikan Theatre which is situated near Yasaka-jinja. You can take the Kyoto City bus 206 to Gion. The performance is usually conducted at 1:30 pm and 4 pm from November 1st to 10th every year. The admission price is 3500 yen or 4000 yen which includes a tea ceremony performance.


    The dance was first performed in 1953. Gion Odori is recognized for its original themes and composition where each year, there will be a different theme for the dance. For example, in 2010, the theme was hanakanzashi (maiko’s hair ornaments) all through the four seasons. Some of the performances may be cute, funny or even tragic akin to the style of Romeo and Juliet.


    The maiko are the ones who receive the least amount of training in dancing as they are just apprentice geisha. Hence, the maiko are likely to appear in the dance for only a short amount of time so you should not be expect to see young girls performing most of the time.


    It would be a great idea to visit Gion during the early November to get a chance to watch the amazing Gion Odori! Since the theme changes every year, it is a dance you wouldn’t get bored viewing several times as you would be expecting different things. You may not need to understand Japanese to figure out the storyline as you can get a rough idea by observing the dance movements. Being able to understand Japanese is a plus as you would be able to comprehend the lyrics. Nevertheless watching Gion Odori is a great cultural experience to be had by everyone!

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