Miyako Odori is a special performance by maiko
(apprentice geisha) and geisha (courtesans), which is
accompanied by shamisen music (nagauta) and
narrative music (joruri). In the one program there are
eight scene changes that reflect the seasons
in Japan. These performances are an annual event
lasts from April 1st to 30th. The schedule coincides
the peak of cherry blossom season. Miyako Odori is
only enjoyed by Japanese people, but by foreigners
It is a popular event where all the performances are
usually sold out since the building can hold 900
at a time.
The first performance of Miyako Odori was in 1872 as part of the Exhibition for the Promotion of Domestic Industry at a time where feudalism was being shunned. This was due to the fact that the nation’s capital was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo and caused a decline in the city. Emperor Meiji wanted a capital based on western influences and Kyoto represented the old traditional ways. Miyako Odori showcased traditional arts that helped bring national recognition to Kyoto.
The performances were created and choreographed by Yachio Inoue the III, the master of the Kyomai Dance School, as a request from the vice governor of Kyoto at the time, Masanao Makimura. Today the performances are handled by the Kyomai Dance School under the instruction of Yachio Inoue the V, who is listed as a Living National Treasure. Aside from the first year the Miyako Odori was held it has always been performed in the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre.
Inside the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre there are a variety options available to choose from. The cheapest seats are on a tatami mats on the floor. If that is not the experience you are looking for then you can opt for the reserved seats that include a small tea ceremony about one hour before the actual performance. Regardless of where you are located within the theater, the Miyako Odori is worth it.
Please see below for tours that include Miyako Odori in Kyoto: