The Miyako odori (sometimes also referred to as “Cherry Blossom Dance” or “Dances of the Capital”) is the annual spring dance of the Kyoto district Gion Kobu. It was first performed in 1872 and continues today running throughout the month of April.
|Kanji, Kana & Pronunciation|
The Miyako odori started in 1872/ Meiji 5 as part of the Kyoto Exposition to boost moral after the capital was moved to Tokyo.
It has been held nearly every year since 1872, sometimes twice in one year and was closed for 6 years between 1944 and 1949 after the war. The”Miyako Odori Junicho” which was the Miyako Odori prototype was performed for the first time with a full chorus and traditional Japanese Orchestra in a classically beautiful house named “Matsunoya” located in Gion.
From 1873 it was performed at the Gion Koubu Kaburenjou Theater however the performances shortly after the war were held at the Minamiza Theatre because the Kaburenjou theatre was used for arsenal storage between 1944 and 1945, after 1945 it was used by US soldiers as a dance hall. After 1952 the performances returned to the Gion Koubu Kaburenjou Theater where it is still held today. 
Since the first performance the Inoue School of dance Inoue School of dance has taken responsibility for the composition of the dance and music used in the performance and continues to be the only school to contribute to the Miyako odori.
Structure of the Miyako Odori
The Miyako odori is usually broken into 8 acts, earlier Miyako Odori performances may have more or less than the standard 8 acts.
The first act has the same décor every year that consists of a silver screen that represents a room in a court noble’s palace where traditional dance would be performed in the Edo period. Dancers in the iconic blue Miyako odori kimono come onto stage by hanamichi on either side of the theatre and cry Miyako odori wa yoiyasa meaning “Let’s start the Cherry Dance”.
Each of the acts is independent stories which change yearly but they follow the same pattern of the changing seasons with the 8th or final act being spring when all the dancers come together on stage as the finale. The acts can be influenced by current affairs or political events.
Cost of Tickets and Location
Each April the Miyako odori runs from the 1st to the 30th with four performances throughout the day, each performances lasts 60minutes. Performances are held at 12.30pm, 2pm, 3.30pm and 4.50pm.
There are three classes of tickets that you can choose from for the performance:
¥4500- which includes the dance, tea ceremony and a sweet. As a souvenir you can keep the plate that the sweet came on.
¥4000- with a choice of Western-style seating or Japanese-style seating on tatami-mats.
¥2000- Japanese-style seating on tatami-mats on the second level.
If you are staying at a Hotel or Ryokan they may be able to make a booking for you and please check the offical miyako Odori website for any price or time changes.
The theater is located at:
Gion Shinchi Kobu Kabukai
570-2 Gionmachiminamigawa Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074
Fax 81-75-525-3105 
Costumes and Hairstyles
In the first act Maiko and young Geiko wear blue kimono that is a very recognisable dress of the Miyako odori. Although each year the design changes, it looks very similar from previous years unless you look closely. The design has weeping cherry blossoms on the shoulders with the designs on the hem and bottom of the sleeves changing yearly. Whilst blue is the most common colour used, there have also been green, white and pink kimono used in the past as seen in old Miyako Odori Programmes The obi also changes design yearly and is worn in a Han’dara style. The dancers will have their hair styled in a “Chu Shimada” style for the month with geiko using their natural hair rather than wearing a wig as they usually do.
Odori Programs and Posters
Each year for the dance posters featuring a maiko, usually in the iconic blue kimono, are placed around Gion Kobu to inform patrons and tourists when the dances are held.
Dance programmes are also printed up and can be purchased at the theater when you attend the dance. These programs are partly Japanese with some English explaining the history and different scenes as well as having portraits of all the maiko and geiko that will be performing in the dance.
Both the posters and programs can be very collectible, you don't have to attend the odori to obtain them as they can often pop up for sale.
Miyako Odori Program Covers
The different styles of cover art for the Miyako Odori change throughout the years, here are a small example.
View the entire gallery of Miyako Odori Programs Covers.
All other images are from Jacqueline Waide's collection.
I think there's a couple...
Authors & Contributors
Jaki-san (IG Username)