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Kyoto’s Geisha Districts Present: The Annual Kotobuki-kai Performance

Geiko and Maiko

Once a year, the beautiful and talented geiko and maiko of Kyoto’s five geisha districts come together to showcase their finely honed skills in the annual public performance known as Kotobuki-kai. Held at the Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theatre, this captivating event offers a rare opportunity to intimately experience various types of traditional Japanese arts.

Enjoy Traditional Dances and Songs by Kyoto’s Geiko and Maiko

The Kotobuki-kai performance typically takes place in early October, making it an ideal opportunity for those visiting Kyoto outside of the cherry blossom season to immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant culture. During the event, geiko (fully fledged geishas) and maiko (geisha apprentices) groups from across Kyoto’s geisha districts regale audiences with a diverse lineup of large-scale performances featuring traditional epic songs and classic shamisen music.

In 2018, Kotobuki-kai comprised one nagauta dance dedicated to maiko apprentices, a nagauta performance by geiko, one folk song-based dance, and one tokiwazu performance – a style of jōruri narrative typically used for kabuki. Kotobuki-kai is considered as one of the most anticipated Kyoto events in october.

Traditional Dance

Exploring the Rich History of Kamishichiken through Kotobuki-kai

Kamishichiken holds significant historical relevance as the oldest geisha district in Kyoto. The name “Kotobuki-kai” dates back to the mid-1800s when the Tokugawa shogunate ordered each geisha district to create official groups called “nakama,” assigning unique names to each. Kamishichiken’s nakama received the name “Kotobuki Nakama,” with the kanji for “kotobuki” used on noren curtains and andon lanterns at teahouses as a mark of officially sanctioned businesses.

The word “kotobuki” is also a congratulatory term associated with long life. In the post-war era, Kamishichiken artists sought to re-establish their traditional practice recital as soon as possible, preserving the name of their old organization in the Kotobuki-kai dance performance.

Experience Kyoto’s Geisha Culture: Tickets and Information

While tickets for Kotobuki-kai are priced slightly higher than those for the spring program (at around 8,000 yen per person), this enchanting performance offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the beauty of Kyoto’s geiko and maiko talents. Concierges at Kyoto’s high-end hotels can help guests secure tickets, as can the staff at luxury ryokan inns. Tourist information offices can also offer assistance with purchasing tickets.

Whether you’re a connoisseur of Japanese traditional arts or simply a first-time visitor to Kyoto, Kotobuki-kai is an unforgettable experience that provides a fascinating insight into the mesmerizing world of geisha dances and songs.

Another exciting event held in early October at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto is the Zuiki Matsuri. It is a celebration of local harvests and an expression of gratitude for an abundant harvest.

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