Performances and Dances of Maiko and Geiko(Geisha)

Types of Performances a Maiko Practices

A Geiko(Geisha) and a Maiko works hard to achieve various types of performances under the guidance of their teachers. In this article are explained what they are and where and how they are performed.

Dance (Mai, Odori & Furi)

“Mai” of “Maiko” means dancing. Actually there are different words in the Japanese language for different types of dancing. “Mai” is characterized by sliding foot and relatively slow and quiet movement. “Odori” means rhythmical dancing with more physical movements. When you do “Furi,” it is more like a play of everyday behavior. When a maiko dances, she combines skillfully these three elements to make a variety of expressions.

“Mai” of “Maiko” means dancing gracefully.

Song (Nagauta, Kouta & Hauta)

They practice Japanese traditional songs called “Nagauta”, “Kouta” & “Hauta”. Along with them are typically played Shamisen, a Japanese 3-string guitar. “Naga” of “Nagauta” means “long” and it is actually longer than the others, while “Ko” and “Ha” means “small” and “part” respectively. With Kouta, the shamisen tune is simple and it is played with a “Bachi”, a shamisen pick. It is played with fingers more technically in “Hauta”, in general.

Tokiwazu & Kiyomoto

It is a type of Joruri, a form of traditional Japanese narrative music. The narrator tells epic poems along with shamisen music. It is not just about singing a song, but like having a role in a play, as she has to express the character’s feelings with gestures and dialogue.

Shamisen

Shamisen is a string instrument that is essential for Nagauta and Kiyomoto. It is sometimes described as a Japanese three-stringed guitar.  In many cases, veteran geishas plays it in a show.

Narimono

“Narimono” is literally “sounding things” but it means percussion instruments such as Japanese drums and bells. It is essential for the BGM in Nagauta and Kiyomoto.

Fue

“Fue” is a general word which means Japanese flutes. “Fu” and “e” is separately pronounced. For geiko’s (geisha’s) performance, Nokan and Shinobue, bamboo Transverse flutes, are generally used.

Koto

Koto is a traditional Japanese string instrument and possibly described as “a Japanese harp”. It is often played for a BGM of Mai(dance) while it is also used to perform a instrumental compositions without dances.

Differences of Maiko Dances

Maiko dance until the Edo period was dominated by the oldest style of Kyoto dance, Shinozuka-ryu. However, in recent years, their dances have been diversified, and each of the five Kagai (Maiko districts) has adopted a different school.

Hanayanagi style

It is a school Kamishichiken District adopts. It is the largest school of Japanese dance and boasts 20,000 disciples. The feature is that “Odori” is more important than “Mai”, and you can enjoy finer rhythm and choreography than other schools.

Wakayagi style

Miyagawacho District chooses Wakayagi style. Originally Judo Wakayagi(若柳壽童), who was involved in the choreography of Kabuki, created it in 1895. It was first popular in a Kagai in Tokyo, Yanagibashi District, and got spread nationwide later. It values the overall gracefulness and incorporates many delicate gestures.

Kyomai Inoue style

It is a school Gion Kobu District adopts. It is a style of Kyoto Dance just like Shinozuka style and characterized by simple movements from the waist to the top and stiff movement. It incorporates the movements of Noh and Kabuki, as well as the movements of Ningyo Joruri, and is very rich in expression.

Onoe style

It is a school Pontocho District adopts. Since the first master Kikugoro Onoe 6th started it, the core of this style is dignity, novelty, and surprisingness, aiming for refined and elegant art. You will find the streamlined flowing movement attractive.

Fujima style

Gion Higashi District adopts this school. It features big movement and is suitable for the stage. It is often compared with Hanayagi-ryu style, which features fine choreography.

Tachikata & Jikata – Roles in Performance

When a performance of maiko and geiko consists of roles called “Tachikata” and “Jikata.” The former means literally “Stander” and is in charge of dance while the other, “Grounder,” is in charge of playing shamisen and singing. Since the latter requires you to be more skilled, it is common for a maiko, an apprentice of geiko, to take charge of the former and for more experienced geiko to take charge of the latter. Jikata does “Mai(dancing)” so she is sometimes called “a maiko-san” regardless if she actually is a maiko or a geiko. Another thing to point out is that a “Jikata” often does a performance in a simple and plain kimono without white makeup or a wig.

Where to Enjoy Maiko Show

The Maiko World, also called “Hanamachi,” used to be a more closed community. This is described in Japanese as “Ichigensan Okotowari,” which means “No Random Customer.” This means you couldn’t enjoy Maiko performing arts without an introducer. This is because the community highly valued a long-term relationship of trust, and why even Japanese people still think it is hard to access and still something mysterious. However, in recent years, it is getting open and accessible, and more and more opportunities have been created to let you enjoy “the maiko world.”

Gion Corner

It is a theater in the Yaei Kaikan next to the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo. You can enjoy 7 traditional performing arts, including the maiko’s Kyoto dance, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, koto music, gagaku, kyogen, and bunraku. The performance lasts about 50 minutes and is held twice daily at 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm, making it easy to participate.

Kyoto Granbell Hotel

This designer hotel is located in the Gion area, within a 10-minute walk from Gion Shijo Station and Hanamikoji Dori. The show event, which is held every Tuesday and Friday night, is moderated by a Kyoto City-certified interpreter guide, so that you can gain a deeper insight into the world of Maiko. In addition, it includes “Ozashiki play” and “Commemorative photo with Maiko”, so it will definitely be a highlight of your trip.

Karasuma Rokkaku Koan Hanare

It is a Japanese restaurant located at Karasuma Rokkaku, which is a 25-minute walk from Gion, but is easily accessible from Kyoto city area. You can enjoy authentic kaiseki food and personally interactive and culturally informative time with maiko. Even beginners can learn more about Maiko culture: The facilitator is the Kyoto City Official Guide; There is a Q&A time; You can talk to the maiko at the table. The price is 22,000 yen per person and can be reserved until 4:00 pm on the day. Click here for details.

The venue is on the second floor of the traditional building.

“Odori” Stages of the Five Maiko District

In addition to providing maiko for maiko shows, Kyoto’s Gokagai(five Maiko Districts) are hosting performances of “Odori (Dance)” stages. They are not held throughout the year, and held in spring(Gion Higashi District’s Gion Odori is in November). Let’s take a look at the schedules and fees for each of the five districts.

* Tickets can be purchased on the official website form, over the phone, and at travel agencies.

Miyako Odori (Gion Kobu District)

Official site: http://miyako-odori.jp/english/

Venue: Minamiza Theater (https://g.page/Minamiza)

Period: April 1 – April 27 (2020)

Time: 12:30~, 14:30~, 16:30~

Price: From 4,000 yen

Kyo Odori (Miyagawacho District)

Official site: http://www.miyagawacho.jp/kyoodor.html

Location: Miyagawacho Kaburenjo (https://goo.gl/maps/JDLZkYjqyZ7ggnkg9)

Period: April 1-April 16 (2020)

Time: 12: 30 ~, 14: 30 ~, 16: 30 ~

Price: From 2,400 yen

Kamogawa Odori (Pontocho District)

Official site: https://en.kamogawa-odori.com/

Location: Pontocho Kaburenjo (https://goo.gl/maps/jvpXhwaXFcsza6rx6)

Period: May 1 – May 24 (2020)

Time: 12: 30 ~, 14: 20 ~, 16: 10 ~

Price: From 2,500 yen ~

Kitano Odori (Kamishichiken District)

Official site: http://www.maiko3.com/kitano-odori.html

Location: Kamishichiken Kaburenjo (https://goo.gl/maps/VQDjdQ5o5uWjxiif9)

Period: March 20 – April 2 (2020)

Time: 14: 00 ~, 16: 30 ~

Price: From 5,000 yen

Gion Odori (Gion Higashi District)

Official site: http://www.gionhigashi.com/gion

Location: Gion Kaikan (https://goo.gl/maps/xxSwquV3ivCXBARp8)

Period: November 1 – November 10 (2019)

Time: 13: 30 ~, 16: 00 ~

Price: From 4,300 yen