Asia,  Japan,  Kyoto,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Miyako Odori: Advice and Practical Tips – Travel Report Kyoto (Japan) #3

As I explained to you last time, we went to Gion Corner in Kyoto to get information about their geiko show, before coming across a flyer of an even more beautiful show that only takes place in April every year: Miyako Odori

As we are still in Osaka for a while, we were able to make the round trip during the day to Kyoto to attend

What it is: Miyako Odori is an annual show/festival where geikos (geishas) and maiko (apprentice geishas) present their cherry tree dances. It is a very well known festival, organized since 1872 (there are years when it has been organized twice)

Where: Attention this festival is taking place this year at the Kyoto art theater shunjuza (type Kyoto University of Art and Design on Google Maps if you can’t find it)

How much does it cost? 4600yen for the special seat (including participation in a small tea ceremony + a place on the 1st or 2nd floor). 3500yen just for a seat on the 2nd floor
Attention in Japan there is no “first floor”, the first floor is called “1st floor”

Where to book? Tickets can be bought on the spot (the day before for a well located seat, or the same day, 3 hours in advance), but if you want, you can buy the tickets in advance on the official website, but you can only buy the most expensive seats (4600yen)

When? From April 1 to 24, 2018
3 shows per day: 12:30, 2:20 and 4:10 p.m
The tea ceremony takes place before the show: 11:20 am, 1:10 pm and 3 pm

How’s it going? We’ll explain it all to you in details in the form of a “travel diary” OK?

Travel Notebook

So, as opinions are very mixed about the tea ceremony (read Tripadvisor: pointless , scam, bitter tea, horrible blah blah blah blah) raising the price from 3500yen to 4600yen, we wanted to buy the cheaper 2nd category tickets on the spot (as it isn’t possible to buy them online), and zap the tea ceremony

Unfortunately, we leave too late from Osaka to be on time for the show at 12:30 pm. So we arrive in Kyoto and spend some time at the Nikishi market. The traffic in Kyoto is so dense that our bus is very late and we also miss the show at 2:20 pm

Since we are there at 2:25 pm, we might as well pay the higher ticket price and attend the tea ceremony at 3 pm

Unfortunately again, at 2 hours before the show, we only have two seats left in the surroundings, and the stage is hidden 1/3 by a wall separating us from the musicians who are on both sides

We could have had great seats when we came back the next day, but running since this morning for this show has exhausted me and I only want to attend and talk more about it

The tea ceremony

We are sitting on 3 rows of chairs in an open “waiting room”. Then at 3pm, we all enter another room in the back. The other visitors fill the 3 rows that we have just emptied

We sit about where we can, with a small table in front of us, in front of the “stage”

A geisha and two maikos are present. It is the geisha who prepares the tea. And the two maikos look at us and distribute the rare teas she prepares to two visitors at random

As for us, we are served a sweet pastry, to be eaten completely before drinking tea, we are told. Then, the tea, already prepared by little back-stage hands, is delivered to our little table. We were told that the tea was bitter, but we are pleasantly surprised, it is much less bitter than we thought. All this mental work to prepare ourselves to swallow bitter tea for nothing!

10min chrono later, we are told to take the plate provided with the cake home. And the table is cleared to let 3 more rows of tourists enter

Ceremony? Where? Everything is already prepared in advance, and despite the presence of the geisha, we see nothing. Here it is..

Before, you could take pictures of them (it was the only interest of the thing), now it’s completely forbidden

The show

On the other hand, the ahlalala show!!!! AMAZING! (here too, photos and videos are forbidden). The photos and videos below come from their official website

There’s an audio guide in English (500yen) that explains the show in real time, and some comments on Tripadvisor advise you to pay for it, but I’m afraid of the “soccer commentator” effect so I didn’t want to do it

The new scene looks smaller than the old one (according to the pictures I didn’t go to the other place). So, on the left side, there is a small scene where the geishas come out

As we are relegated to the small corner on the left, it’s our only consolation: we see them very very close (I’m doing my best but despite our rotten seats, we still enjoyed the show)

OMG their kimonos !!! I want the same ! After a small tour at Museum of Traditional Crafts, I understand why their kimonos cost in the 2000€

As the kimonos are very difficult to put on (1 hour minimum for the geishas), of course, they do not change costumes in the meantime. So for a show like that composed of 6 scenes/paintings, and requiring different costumes (of the 4 seasons, supposed to take place in different cities of Japan), there are a lot of geiko and maiko for our greatest happiness. And above all, at the end, they are all on stage to dance

The scenes/paintings are quite easy to understand. I’m sure that if I understood Japanese, I would have understood even better (the lyrics sound very descriptive). The music is SUPERB! The decorations are impressive, I don’t know how they change decorations so quickly, or how they make bridges go up and down in the blink of an eye but it’s a real success


Should we go? yes yes yes!! even if I sincerely think we should skip the tea ceremony. At the same time, since I have been warned about the ceremony, I am surely less disappointed than the others and I am happy to have tasted the matcha tea prepared in the traditional way

The show, in spite of its now international dimension, still attracts as many Japanese (who come dressed in kimono and all and everything, unlike tourists dressed as tramps oops), and even geishas and maikos (we saw a dozen of them in the audience)

You should know that this isn’t the only cherry tree dance festival by geikos in Kyoto, there are others like Kitano Odori, Kyo Odori, Kamogawa odori or Gion Odori less known by foreigners, but of an equivalent quality according to my research. I will let you decide which one you like the most

For those who are curious, I leave you a preview of the 2018 show here

My advice

Given the traffic in Kyoto, I advise you to look at Google Maps and plan your arrival at least 1H before the show (or tea ceremony)

The tea ceremony lasts 50 minutes, and the tourists enter by hundreds, it’s not too bad if you are late, but don’t be too late either

Then, I advise you, if you want to have a good seat, to buy on the Internet, or come at least 3 hours before the show

The best places in my opinion are circled in green (above the 1st floor plan, below the 2nd floor plan)

The least well placed places are circled in red

Click on the image to zoom

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