Japanese geisha are famous across the world thanks to their fascinating and private lives. Traditionally geisha entertain visitors at elite ocha-ya 'teahouses', where they sing, dance, and play traditional instruments for wealthy guests. However, this April, visitors to Kyoto will be offered a rare chance to observe geisha as they perform in the annual Miyako Odori dance festival.
Now in its 144th year, the Miyako Odori dance festival will offer inquisitive travellers the opportunity to see geisha and maiko perform traditional dance in elegant kimonos as part of the art spectacular.
Since its launch in 1872, the festival has become an established part of Kyoto's spring culture. The hour-long performance is organised into eight scenes linked to some of Japan's most famous locations and tell a story of Japan's changing seasons from spring to winter and then back to spring. Featuring geiko and maiko from Kyoto's Gion Kobu district, the performances run throughout the month and are repeated each day at 12:30, 14:00, 15:30, and 16:50 at the Gion Kōbu Kaburen-jō Theatre.
The historic routes of the festival stem from when Kyoto's capital city status was removed and offered to Tokyo, leaving local people disheartened. Therefore Miyako Odori was created, which translates to 'The Dance of the Capital' to raise local peoples' spirits and showcase that the buoyant art and culture industry still thrived in the city.