Onshukai in Gion Kobu 2011


Yesterday I attended Onshukai, Gion Kobu's fall dance performance held annually from October 1 - 6. The photo above is of this year's pamphlet, left for me at a teahouse by the maiko Mameharu. For anyone who cannot read Japanese, my name is written down the left side of the paper, and Mameharu has signed her name in the bottom center.

One way that geisha and maiko keep in touch with and inform their customers is by leaving hand-written announcements like the one above for them before events like Miyako Odori and Onshukai. Inside is is a list of the a names of the dances being performed each day and the names of the geisha and maiko performing in those dances. So, if I want to see a certain geisha or maiko perform, I know which day to attend.

I chose to attend yesterday because most of the geisha I have photographed over the years were performing on the same day, a rare stroke of luck. Yukako, Satomi, and Takamaru all appeared in "Nagauta: Urashima."  I enjoyed this piece especially because it was a musical performance with no dancing involved, a rarity in the world of geisha and maiko. Yukako and Takamaru played the o-tsuzumi, a hand-drum used mostly in Noh plays. Satomi played the taiko, another form of Japanese drum. Makiko and Mamehana both danced in the seventh and final piece of the day, "Kamigata Uta: Kashima Odori."

Onshukai has been shortened by about 30 minutes since I wrote about it in my 2009 book Geisha & Maiko of Kyoto: Beauty, Art, & Dance, which was based on dances I had attended from 2004 - 2007. In those years,  Onshukai lasted from 4:00 - 7:00 or so, but yesterday's performance was over by about 6:30 p.m. Only the intermissions have been shortened, not the dances, so it is a welcome improvement, in my opinion. Yesterday there was only one 15 minute intermission, not two, and the wait between all the other dances was a bit shorter as well. Besides this one minor change, Onshukai is as enjoyable as it has always been, and I still prefer it to the more famous Miyako Odori.