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Catch a glimpse of geisha at annual spring dance event in Kyoto

by Mads Berthelsen

Staff Writer

The way of the geisha is slowly disappearing, but there are still small pockets where you can find them around Japan. The biggest one of these areas is the Kyoto neighborhood of Gion. All through April, Gion will host the Miyako Odori — the spring dance of the geisha.

The Miyako Odori was considered a direct response to the Meiji Restoration, which opened Japan to modernization and the world in 1868. This year, the spring dance celebrates its 140th anniversary.

The dance itself is a tightly choreographed group performance, sometimes with more than 20 geisha and a traditional Japanese orchestra.

The district of Gion has been an entertainment mecca for centuries. It is usually a place where exclusive entertainment takes place behind closed doors. Tourists often flood the area to try and sneak a picture of the geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) who work there — often to the annoyance of the women as they travel to and from parties. Luckily, the Miyako Odori brings the country’s most sought after tourist treasures into the open, allowing visitors to get a taste of old Japan.

Miyako Odori — the Spring Dance will take place in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, from April 1-30 (12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:50 p.m.). Tickets cost ¥2,000 and ¥4,000. For more information, visit www.miyako-odori.jp/odori_en.html.