Miyako Odori – Dances of the Old Capital

It’s no secret that it’s one of my life-time goals to see a traditional Geisha dance, in Kyoto during Hanami. That’s why I’m so pleased that Monique and I are booked in to see the 141st presentation of the Miyako Odori while we’re in Kyoto.


History of the Miyako Odori:

According to their website the Miyako Odori was commissioned by Kyoto Governor Nobuatsu Nagatani and Vice Governor Masanao Makimura in 1871 to counter the perceived loss of status when Japan’s capital city was changed from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo).

The commision was given to Jirouemon Sugiura who was the owner of ‘Mantei’ (still in existence today as Ichiriki!), a popular Private House for Kyoto’s Geiko and Maiko performances. Mantei worked in collaboration with Yachiyo Inouye the III (Master of the Kyomai Dance School) and the ‘Kamenoko Odori’ was born.

Later, the Kamenoko Odori was performed at ‘House Matsunoya’ in Gion. This performance (referred to as the ‘Gion Kobu Dance’) was the prototype for the Miyako Odori. The Matsunoya performance was a huge success and, as such, all parties involved swore an oath promising that the Gion Kobu Dance would remain the exclusive domain of Inouye the III’s Kyomai School and this promise is honoured to this day!

So cool!

Today the originality, authenticity, beauty, quality, and dignity of the Miyako Odori is entrusted to the current Master of Kyomai Dance: Yachiyo Inouye the V and takes place each Spring in the Kaburenjo Theater.


So, so, so unbelievably awesome. Australia has a very young history – as a ‘westernised’ nation we’re only 225 years old – so the idea that the Miyako Odori is kept alive by a promise that’s 141 years old is just mind-blowing to me.

Visiting the Miyako Odori

If you’re ever in Kyoto during April and want to see this beautiful dance here’s how to book:

[Note: there are many other types of Geisha dances performed at different times of year. I’m not sure how to book those but hopefully the process will be similar.]

If you visit the Miyako Odori website you’ll find three ticket options:

  1. Special Class – 4500 Yen (comes with Tea Ceremony and a free gift)
  2. 1st Class – 4000 Yen
  3. 2nd Class – 2000 Yen

I read on multiple TripAdvisor forums that the Special Class ticket isn’t worth it. Apparently the tea ceremony is rushed and the free gift is tacky. I also read that there’s little difference in viewing between the 1st and 2nd class seats so I chose 2nd class seats.

Purchasing Tickets

The tricky part of booking the Miyako Odori is that there is no online booking form. You have to either call or fax.

I’ll admit it: I wasn’t keen on calling. Talking on the phone is awkward anyway and butchering Japanese on the phone without the option to mime my way through the conversation just seemed unbearably awkward.

So here’s what I did – I used an online fax service. I figured: ‘Hey (!) the fax is just a phone line and the internet is just a phone line. It must exist.‘ And it totally does exist. I used FreePopFax who allowed me to send an international fax, you guessed it, for free!

Choosing ‘Japan’ as my destination country I entered an email address, popped in the fax number from the website and uploaded a document with my request in English and Japanese (thanks Google Translate!) just to be sure/polite.

While I was busy fretting about whether it worked or not (picking up the phone gingerly and stumbling my way through ‘Konichiwa, eigo-ga hanasu hito ga imasu-ka kudusaimasu,‘ which I’m pretty sure is, ‘Hello, is there an English speaker please.’) I received a confirmation email!

I was advised that I couldn’t pay in advance and to print the email confirmation as proof of booking to pay on the day. The email also advises that payment must be made in cash.

And that was it! Quick and easy. Who could want more when setting a plan-of-action in motion to achieve a life-time goal?

Not me, that’s for sure.

Until next time,

Kally & Mon.

Life-time goal achieved! The Miyako Odori was truly a beautiful, captivating show

[Feature Image Credit: TerraGalleria]

Ever tried to book something by phone in another language? Impossible, awkward or easy? Let us know in the comments section.:)        

6 thoughts on “Miyako Odori – Dances of the Old Capital

  1. Pingback: Travelling to Kyoto – using the trains and booking Shinkansen seats | JaPlanning

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  4. Pingback: Tips for visiting Japan – Part III – Kyoto | JaPlanning

  5. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this post! Based on your information I managed to get the tickets booked without hassle. The link provided for the free online fax is very handy. There are so many similar services on the internet and mostly require your credit card info, also I’m not sure which of the free ones really works. Thanks again for sharing!

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