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If you read my last post you already know that Gion Corner is on my favorites list, but just in case I wasn’t clear enough, let me say again that this place should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Kyoto. It’s a great activity to do before dinner; solo or with the whole family.
Gion Corner: a great consolidated show of culture
Tea ceremonies are common throughout Asia, but each country has a different take on what makes a tea ceremony special. For the Japanese, tea is an art form. To become a tea master, you need to attend schooling for a few years and it’s an evolving art. For the untrained eye, the ceremony may seem slow and a bit tedious at times, but if you learn the basics of the tea ceremony it makes it so interesting! I will be writing a post soon on Camellia and more details on the tea ceremony.
I first saw these instruments in Philadelphia and was fascinated by the “picks” on the musicians hands. It looks like witch nails!
For someone who can’t even play a 6-string instrument, 13 is just mind-bogging. The Koto is the national instrument of Japan.
Gagaku Court Entertainment:
This dance and music performance was performed at the imperial court of Kyoto and slowly faded away due to fall of the aristocracy. I loved the costume and mask. It was so vibrant!
This comedy show is done only in Japanese, but fret not! A translated summary of the play is available in English and other languages that make it easy to understand. Also body language is an impressive form of communication.
Most people go to Gion Corner for this performance alone. The graceful Maiko (Geishas in training) are a sight to behold. These young ladies go through years of training to become masters of the art of hosting.
Beyond flower arrangement, Ikebana is sometimes gravity defining. While in Japan, I was able to see an Ikebana exhibition and was amazed by the creativity of these artists.
This was unexpectedly, my favorite part of the show. When the puppeteers came out all dressed in black and with their heads covered, I got a cultish vibe, but once the show started, they blended in the background and it became obvious that this was puppetry on steroids. It was like the puppet came to life and was a real person. There are 4-5 puppeteers controlling the different limbs and they work together as one- it’s a marvel of coordination.
Here are 5 tips to make your experience at Gion Corner more memorable:
- Arrive early to get your ticket and spend some time browsing the Geisha display on the main hall.
- Try to get a seat in the front/middle or to the right of the stage. The tea ceremony is performed on the right (if you are facing the stage).
- Bring cash. No cards are accepted.
- Work out the settings in your camera for no flash photography to make sure you don’t have to spend the time during the show adjusting your camera.
- Read the pamphlet provided for more context of each performance. For example, the comedy show is done all in Japanese, but if you read the explanation before the show, it makes for a pretty funny performance.
If you need more information on show times, prices and directions to Gion Corner, here is their website.
Bonus: Don’t forget to check out the Gion district before and after the performance for any Geisha sightings!