Kyoto’s major spring dances

In Japan, sakura (cherry blossoms) and hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) parties are probably the top recognized symbols of the arrival of spring. In Kyoto, however, there is another custom to enjoy: dance performances by geiko (geisha) and maiko (geisha apprentices) to songs and music mainly played on the shamisen.

Five kagai (geisha quarters) still exist in the city, with each presenting shows, starting with Kamishichiken-Kabukai, a district near Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, and its 65th edition of the Kitano Odori. The fortnight-long program (March 25- April 7) will feature a kabuki-like dance drama as well as flamboyant dances.

The Kitano Odori is usually followed by the Miyako Odori, the Gion Kobu quarter's regular performances, which began in 1872. This year it takes place April 1-23 in the Kyoto Art Theater Shunjuza. This time, the event coincides with the Kyo Odori's 68th edition, which lasts through April 16 at the Miyagawacho theater, and includes scenes based on "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter."

In addition to all this, entertainers in Pontocho, near Sanjo Station, will stage performances of a dance drama and a classical dance from May 1 to 24, for the 180th Kamogawa Odori, which has a history as long as the Miyako Odori.

As a finale to all the festivities, all kagai, including the fifth, Gion Higashi, will collaborate for the Miyako no Nigiwai shows, at the Shunjuza theater.

For ticket prices and other details of all these events, visit one of the websites below. (Yuki Yamauchi)

Kitano Odori: www.maiko3.com
Miyako Odori: bit.ly/miyakoodori
Kyo Odori: bit.ly/kyoodori
Kamogawa Odori: bit.ly/kmgwodori
Miyako no Nigiwai: bit.ly/nigiwai