A Month of "Miyagawa Ondo," Part I

The geisha Kimina of Miyagawa-cho at the start of "Miyagawa Ondo," the annual finale of Kyo Odori
The geisha Kimina of Miyagawa-cho at the start of "Miyagawa Ondo," the annual finale of Kyo Odori

Since many of my readers don't live in Japan and can't attend Kyo Odori in Miyagawa-cho, I'm going to spend the next several posts describing the finale of Kyo Odori, "Miyagawa Ondo" or "Miyagawa Song and Dance" in both photos and words.

I have photographed "Miyagawa Ondo" more than any other dance (several times every year from 2007-2009), and most of the photos focus on the geisha Kimina, as this one does.

The dance begins with two geisha in light blue kimono literally tiptoeing onto the stage, coquettishly hiding their faces behind their silver and red fans. These first two are quickly joined by two more geiko in pale yellow kimono, also concealing their identity.

The music begins, and the four women dance, briefly offering the audience a teasing glimpse of their faces for the first few moments. After this first section, the four geiko are joined onstage by all the geiko of Miyagawa-cho, half in the light blue kimono and half in the yellow one.

This photograph from the 2009 version of "Miyagawa Ondo" is my all-time favorite of the dance, mostly for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the photograph itself.

I had photographed the dance at least 10 times before this, and every time I waited on pins and needles for the geiko to reveal their faces from behind their fans at the beginning of the dance, hoping Kimina would be one of them. She never was, which always left me disappointed.

In fact, by the time 2009 came around, I had given up hope of Kimina being one of the first four onstage, and I was so surprised when she was that I missed the very beginning of the dance!

Secondly, Kimina always wore the light blue kimono in 2007 and 2008, and I was hoping she would switch to the pale yellow version so there would be some variety to my photos. This wish was also finally granted in 2009.

As usual, my good luck in choosing seats continued, and I was in the perfect position to capture the shadows on Kimina's face and frame her with the bodies of two of the other geiko. If I had been one seat to either the left or right, I would not have been able to see Kimina clearly.

Finally, this is one of my favorites because it is one of the last I made of "Miyagawa Ondo" and Kyo Odori. Photography was prohibited halfway through the dance in 2009, and I have not been able to photograph it since, much to my regret.