Kamogawa Odori (鴨川をどり)
Kamogawa Odori is a popular annual Geisha dance event that takes place every year in Kyoto from the 1st to the 24th of May. This is a rare chance to see real geishas and their apprentices called maikos. The performances often recount historical events. Even if you are not knowledgeable about the stories and do not understand Japanese, watching the graceful synchronized dance of the geishas and maikos is enjoyable in itself.
For people of Kyoto, the event has become a symbol of spring and underlines their city's rich traditional cultural heritage. It was held for the first time soon after Japan abandoned its feudal system and moved its capital from Kyoto to Tokyo (1868). The annual event, which started in 1872 in Pontocho's Kaburenjo Theater, was seen as a way for Kyoto to safeguard its cultural gravitas after the change of capital.
So if you are in Kyoto during the month of May, you should definitely consider purchasing tickets to attend this culturally important event! These kinds of performances have become very rare in Japan. Here's some useful information.
Ideally, you should buy your tickets in advance because the event is quite popular and the tickets do get sold out. For the 2019 edition, ticket sales start on the 8th of January. If you can speak Japanese, you can call directly the Pontocho Kabukikai for reservation at 075-221-2025. Alternatively, you can make a reservation online from the official website.
You can also book through travel agencies in Japan. JR Midori no Madoguchi Ticket Offices is a good place to go. They can be found in many major stations across Japan. Look for their green signboards.
Buying tickets on the same day
Although you may not be guaranteed a ticket, same day booking is possible. Just head to the Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre's ticket gate and inquire if there are any tickets left.
Address: Sanjokudaru Pontocho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Nearest Station: Sanjo of the Keihanhon Line
Regular seats are ¥2,300 and special seats are ¥4,200. There are also special "tea tickets" that allows you to receive a simple traditional Japanese confectionary and a green tea at the end of the performance, served by the geishas. Tea tickets are ¥700. Special seat tickets with tea service are ¥4,800.
How should you dress?
There is no particular dress code but the association recommends to dress in a manner that suits the atmosphere of the event. You may see many people wearing traditional kimonos.
How long are the performances?
The dances last about 1h15. There are three performances a day starting at 12:30, 14:20, and 16:10.
Kyoto is a stunningly beautiful city that has a rich culture. Attending the Kamogawa Odori or other cultural events of the sort will undoubtedly increase your appreciation of Japan's old capital. Hope you'll get the chance to enjoy the beautiful odori.