Kyoto Local Custom Tips by Pixiekatten Top 5 Page for this destination
Kyoto Local Customs: 83 reviews and 107 photos
A geisha is recognised by the more subtle kimono (robe-like dress). It is often not as bright and colourful as the Maiko's (pls see sep tip). The kimono only got one colour most of the time and it's based on tradtional Japanese themes. Also the obi (the broad 'waistbelt') is more subtle than the Maiko's. A geisha wears white collars under the kimono and this is a sign of maturity. While a Maiko wears tall okobo (clog-like laquered shoes) a geisha wears flat ones called zohri. Both geisha and maiko got a full white make-up and very red lips.
A geisha is trained in entertainment skills such as dance, singing and playing Shamisen (a 3-stringed guitar-like instrument) but they should also be refined in the art of conversation. A geisha is a carer and entertainer of men visiting a tea house.
In Kyoto it is very popular to be 'geisha for a day'. In Gion you can get the full makeup and rent a kimono for the day and head out on the streets to get the feel of people staring at you and want to take pictures. So if you are after a picture of a real geisha sticking to the teahouses in Gion is a hot tip. On wooden boards on the walls you can see how many geisha or maiko work at the teahouse (pls see seperate tip).
Since I didnt have a pic of a geisha I borrowed this one from: http://www.pixelparadox.com/pic/images/geisha.jpg
A maiko is a geisha apprentice and as far as I know they are only found in Kyoto. A maiko can be recognised by the differences on her kimono and obi. They are often a bit more colourful and brightly coloured than the the ones of the more mature geisha. Also the obi is often much longer and tied in a different way. (The obi is the broad 'belt' around her waist. And kimono the dresslike 'robe'). A maiko wairs large wooden clog-like shoes called okobo - they force her to take very small steps which by old Japanese tradition is considered very attractive.
A girl can become a maiko at the age of 16 now days since all children must attend high school by law. The apprenticeship is usually 5 years so at 21 a maiko could become a geisha. The training consists of dance, Shamisen, singing as well as learning artistic pursuits. A maiko must also learn the social graces and old style Kyoto dialect.
On the walls on the tea houses in Kyoto there is wooden board telling how many maiko and geisha working there. Pls see seperate tip.
Gion Matsuri is held annually in Kyoto and is probably one of the most famous festival in all of Japan. It is on during the entire month of July and the Yama-boko Junkō, which is the parade with the floats, is the absolute highlight of the festival and is on July 17th. Kyoto's downtown area is closed for traffic on the three nights leading up to the parade. On these nights the streets are lined with night stalls selling food, traditional sweets, beer and much more. On these nights it is also the perfect opportunity to spot the Japanese walking around in beautiful cotton summer kimonos, called yukatas.
On the 17th one has to rise early to get a good spot to watch the parade. The streets get real crowded hours before it starts and people bring food, water and fans to get through the long wait in the hot and humid weather.
The parade consists of about 30 floats that are carried and pulled. It takes about 3 hours and is amazing to watch.
Weight: about 12,000 kg
Height: about 25m from ground to tip / 8 m from ground to roof
Wheel diameter: about 1.9 m
Attendants: about 30-40 pulling during procession, usually 2 men piloting with wedges
Height: about 6 m
Weight: 1,200 – 1,600 kg
Attendants: 14-24 people to pull, push or carry
There are pamphlets in English handed out in the streets or they can be picked up at a TIC. Getting one is making the experience even better as you can read about the different floats and which temples or shrines they belong to.
Statue of Okuni
Okuni stands by a bridge crossing Kamogawa - wearing a samurai sword and a fan.
She's also called Izumo No Okuni and was a Japanese dancer who is credited as being the founder of the Kabuki art form. She was a maiko at the Grand Shrine of Izumo where her father worked as a blacksmith, and where several other family members served. As it was a custom of the time to send priests, miko and others to solicit contributions for the shrine, she was sent to Kyoto to perform sacred dances and songs.
It was during her performances in Kyoto that she also became known for her innovation: her nembutsu dance, in honor of the buddha Amida.
Around 1603, Okuni set up a theatre on the dry riverbed of the Shijogawa (now the Kamo river) and formed a troupe of female dancers who gave a highly popular performance of dances and light sketches on a dry riverbed in Kyoto.
Though she required her male actors to play female roles and her female actors to play that of the males, she was known for playing roles of either gender. In particular, she was best known for her roles as samurai and Christian priests. She retired in1610.
In 2003 a statue was erected in her honor, located at the side of the Kamo river in the Pontochō district of Kyoto.
Sakura - Kyoto
Cherry blossoms (sakura) are called the symbol of Japanese culture, and have been composed in many tankas (Japanese poems) from old times. From March to April, when the news of cherry blossoms flowering is received from south, people travel from all over Japan to see cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms are in bloom in a short period, only 5 days. Kyoto has many good sights for sakura viewing, for example:
- Kyoto Imperial Palace Park -
Kyoto Imperial Palace can be reached in about 10 minutes from Kyoto Station by the Karasuma Subway Line. Get off at Marutamachi or Imadegawa Station.
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple -
Kiyomizudera can be reached from Kyoto Station in about 15 minutes by bus. Take bus number 100 or 206 and get off at Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka, from where it is a 10-15 minute uphill walk to the temple.
- Heian-jingu Shrine -
From JR Kyoto Station take City Bus 5 to "Kyoto Kaikan Bijitusu-kan Mae".
10 min walk from "Higashi-yama" Tozai line subway stop.
- Maruyama Park -
Maruyama Park can be reached by bus from Kyoto Station in about 20 minutes. Take number 100 and 206 and get off at Gion bus stop. The park is just behind Yasaka Shrine.
- Along Kamogawa -
Kamagawa stretches for about 30km and throughout Kyoto there are pathways so you can walk along the river. In the afternoon there's usually lots of couples sitting on the sides of Kamagawa, just under the terraces of Ponto-cho. (Notice the exact distance between every couple!)
Having a meal on one of the terraces overlooking the river is highly recommended on a warm summer's night! If you're only after coffee, Starbucks got a very nice terrace.. and its free! (see pic)
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