Kyo Odori 2012 Ends in Three Days

Miyagawa-Eyes-1
Miyagawa-Eyes-1

I finally had the chance to attend Kyo Odori yesterday, and I want to urge anyone in or near Kyoto to go see it before it ends this Sunday, April 22. I had a wonderful time, and after focusing on Miyako Odori so much these past few weeks, I wanted to make sure I gave Kyo Odori a very enthusiastic plug even though I have no new photographs to post (the above photo was taken in 2009, when photography was still permitted). To me, the highlights of this year's Kyo Odori were:

1. The gorgeous and colorful costumes. (I know, I know, I wish I had photos to show you, too!) Anyone that's been following my posts of Miyako Odori photos the past few weeks knows that the costumes in three of the first four scenes are the famous indigo blue and cinnabar red kimono Miyako Odori is known for. People expect to see these same costumes every year, and I don't think anyone could imagine Miyako Odori without them. Miyagawa-cho does not have a similar tradition to follow, but it makes up for it with visually stunning kimono in almost every scene.

2. More complex set designs. There seemed to be a lot more attention paid to set design this year in both Kyo Odori and Miyako Odori. I particularly liked the scenery in scene 2 of this year's Kyo Odori, "The Dance of Beautiful Lotus Flowers." At the beginning of the scene giant flowers appear to glow from within and blossom right in front of our eyes onstage. Geisha suddenly appear, and they gracefully dance as the spirits of the flowers.

There were also some major differences from Kyo Odori from years past. Here are two:

1. This year, several geiko appeared in two of the first six scenes and "Miyagawa Ondo," the perennial final scene. In previous years, geiko would only appear in one of the first six scenes and the finale. I was fortunate in that all the geiko I know were dancing yesterday, so I got to see more of them than I expected. If I had gone on a different day, I might not have been so lucky.

2. I was also quite surprised that maiko only appeared in one of the first six scenes. Maiko have appeared in at least two of the first six scenes every other year I have attended.

My personal favorites of the day were watching Fumicho in scene 5 and the emergence of the geiko Taneju. Fumicho managed to express worlds of emotions with a bare minimum of movement and gesture. Even the person sitting next to me, a loud, leather-jacket wearing man who reeked of cigarettes and checked his iPhone during almost every scene, was spellbound by Fumicho's marvelous technique. He was actually staring up at her with his mouth slightly agape while she danced.

Taneju was one of the geiko who appeared in two scenes (1 and 3) in addition to "Miyagawa Ondo," and she even took center stage for a time in scene 3 even though she was the youngest of the five geiko on the stage at the time. I met Taneju when she was a young first-year maiko who was not very sure of herself, and I could not help but smile to see the self-assured geiko she has become.

You have three days left to go see Kyo Odori this year. Go if you can.