Monday, April 7

Kyoto for Hanami: Vol. 3 Miyako Odori

Waiting for the Number 12.
Bus stops in larger Japanese cities tend to be much more informative than their U.S. counterparts. Here, the location of the bus lights up to tell you how much time until it arrives.

On Tuesday morning I dropped my stuff of at Yasuko's apartment, and then we bused it over to Gion to meet Melissa, Chris and the Porter's at our ever-designated meeting spot, Starbucks.

Entrance to the famous Ichiriki-tei tea house in Gion.

Seeing as Sam and Steve had never really been to Gion, and Yasuko rarely came there, Melissa took us all on a brief, yet free, guided tour around Gion, starting with Ichiriki-tei, a famous tea house where the 47 Ronin once holed up.

A lantern outside Ichiriki-tei.

The Melissa Free Guided Tour
The Porter's and Yasuko take in the info.

Street Sign in Gion

Pro-Wrestling and Dinner
Melissa wishes her boyfriends good luck.
Too bad her true boyfriend got cut off at the top...

It must be Pro-Wrestling season, because there are signs everywhere, even around my little town.

Yasuko and I show off our Miyako Odori tickets outside Kaburenjo.

Entering the grounds of the Kaburenjo Theater in Gion.

An outer wall of Kennin-ji, accompanied by sakura and more sakura.

Our Free Tour took us past Kaburenjo, the famous Theater where the maiko and geiko of Gion perform, and where we would later see Miyako Odori, to Kennin-ji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.

The north gate at Kennin-ji

Kaburenjo visible over a gate at Kennin-ji

A roof at Kennin-ji waits to be repaired.

Jisshin, Taifu ni Tsuyoi
Tiles for a roof at Kennin-ji
Strong enough to withstand earthquakes and taiphoons.

Melissa and Sam reflect on a garden at Kennin-ji.

Kennin-ji seal on the wallpaper.

Two Dragons. by Koizumi Junsaku
Detail of the painting on the ceiling of the Hatto (Dharma Hall) at Kenninji.

According to the brochure:
This painting commemorates the 800-year anniversary of Kennin-ji's founding, and a ceremony to mark its installation was given in April of 2002. It measues 11.4m by 15.7m (the size of 108 tatami mats) and is drawn with the finest quality ink on thick traditional Japanese paper (washi). It was created in the gymnasium of an elementary school in Hokkaido and took the artist just under two years to complete.

List of maiko and geiko at the door to their house.

After the temple we wound our way through back alleys and on to Yasaka Shrine, at the end of Shijo-dori. Lucky us, a wedding procession was moments away from arriving.

Preparing the way
Two shrine maidens chat, while a priest (?) sweeps the path in anticipation of the arriving wedding party.

Wedding Procession
The bride and groom's families proceed behind them.
The two ladies in black kimono are most likely their mothers, and the gentlemen in the tail coats would be the fathers.
The man on the far right is wearing the typical wedding (or graduation, etc.) white tie.

Tako-yaki, anyone?
At a stand in Maruyama Koen.

Leaving Yasaka Jinja
Chris and his friend look out over Shijo-dori, the main street through Gion, leading up to Yasaka Shrine.

Miyako Odori... Ikou!

Over There.
Of course I can only ever think of the WWI song of the same name.

Joseph and I pose with our tickets - green for the tea ceremony, blue for the dance, in front of this year's kimono.
(Thanks, Melissa!)

From not even going at all, Melissa and Yasuko easily convinced me to go for the "Special Class Ticket Package" for the Miyako Odori. This included access to the garden at Kaburenjo, a tea ceremony with a geiko and maiko, with matcha, manju and a plate, and reserved seating for the dance.

Due to Yasuko's lolly-gagging in line, we were lucky enough to be the first in line after the round-one cut-off. This afforded us prime front-row seats on the right side of the tea ceremony stage. Right next to the lovely and graceful Mari.

To say that I was moved by the ceremony would be an understatement. I was totally verklempt. It was a great stroke in the Nihonbunka painting that formed during those 4 days.

Beginning the tea ceremony.
Mari, a geiko, takes the first cup from Tatsuyuki, a maiko.

Making matcha.
Mari ladles hot water into the cup already containing powdered tea.

Matcha and manju, on a complimentary plate.
The plates come in all colors of Gion dango. Chris collects them, so he and I traded so he could have the blue.

Do I see maiko-hood in her future?
A little girl watches as Katsuyuki serves her mother matcha.

Katsuyuki served only the four guests in front of Mari: an older gentleman, his two grandchildren and their mother, perhaps his daughter. The order: Grandfather, grandson, mother, daughter. The ceremony was over once they had all been served.

Owari desu.
Katsuyuki takes a seat at the end of the ceremony.

Unfortunately, as of this year photographs are no longer permitted at the dances. But that's ok, it was wonderful to just watch and take it all in without a lens between me and the spectacle.

The dance was... wow. I won't even try to describe it. I'll just say, if you're ever in Kyoto in April, go. The kandou was ever-increasing. Just seeing those women, in all their beauty, moving gracefully in unison to the music and song of their colleagues was just awe-inspiring. I will never forget that experience.

Kotoha, Melissa's most beloved maiko, weaves her way into the Kaburenjo Theater.

How was the dance experience? Meh.
(Thanks Melissa!)

Strolling under the sakura along the Shirakawa (River).

Kamogawa (River) from Shijo.

Nijo-jo Raito Appu.
On my way to Chez-Yasuko.

After the dance was more hanami in Gion. Just strolling the streets, sipping some Soy Chai Latte at 'Bucks, and busing it back to Yasuko's place. I'm so proud of myself for taking above-ground public transportation all by lonesome.

When I got to Yasuko's apartment, I met her father, Akira, for the first time. He was a jolly fellow, and I enjoyed chatting with him, Yasuko and Sachiko until the wee hours. Well, midnight or so.

Joseph makes friends with Yasuko's dad, Akira.


Blogger ஜღBaRbYღஜ said...

OMG, I am going to visit Kyoto in April and want to go to a blossom-spring dance too! Did you book your ticket in advance? I'm not in Japan at the moment, so I might give the theatre a call or wait until I'm there... What do you recon?

9:25 PM

Blogger Abbey said...

Cool!!! You're going to LOVE it! Will you be there in early April for the cherry blossoms?

As far as I know, you can't book the tickets online, but according to the website you can do it over the phone.

If you know Japanese:

Make sure you get the special tea ceremony ticket. It's worth it! I also recommend not sitting to close to the front. I sat in rows 9 and 14 (I think), and they were both grand! It's row 14 (I think) that puts you about parallel with the doors that the maiko come out of at the beginning. When you go to buy your tickets, they'll show you a seating chart of the theater. Or you can look here ahead of time:

Good luck, and enjoy!

9:25 AM

Blogger ஜღBaRbYღஜ said...

Aw! Thanks a mil for your info! I'll be there from the 9th to the 29th of April, so I really hope to see the cherry blossoms!

I'm inquiring with my hotel in Kyoto now, whether they can reserve 2 tickets for me. If they can't I might call the theater or wait to be there...

I would love to attend the Takayama Festival the 14th of April too, but booking an accommodation over there is too expensive (more than 300 euro per person in that night) and according to Hyrpedia last train to Tokyo is at 6.40pm. So as the event starts at 6.30pm we will miss it!!!

Have you ever been there?

2:55 AM

Blogger Abbey said...

Yes, I've been to Takayama several times (it's about 2 hours by car from where I was living), but I never went to the festival. It's supposed to be pretty cool, though!

I wouldn't worry too much about getting tickets. You should be able to get them no problem. The first time I went, we got them the day before, I think, and got great seats (row 14).

As for the cherry blossoms, there's usually an information center at Kyoto Sta. that tells where all the best viewing is at any given time. Oh, Kyoto in the spring is so magical!!! You're going to love it!
Good luck!

7:53 AM


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