Once a year, the famous geiko and maiko of Kyoto’s five geisha districts give large-scale performances for the public, most of which occur in spring. What many people don’t know, however, is that each district also holds a smaller, more intimate performance each year!
At Kamishichiken, this performance is called Kotobuki-kai, and it takes place in early October. The event takes its name from Kamishichiken’s history, when the Tokugawa shogunate ordered each geisha district to create official groups and assigned names to them in the mid-1800s.
Kamishichiken’s group (“nakama”) was called the “Kotobuki Nakama”, and the kanji for kotobuki was used on noren curtains and andon lanterns at the teahouses to signal that they were officially sanctioned businesses. In the post-war era Kamishichiken sought to re-establish their usual practice recital as soon as possible, and since kotobuki is a congratulatory word associated with long life, they preserved the name of their old organization in this dance performance.
Kotobuki-kai is composed of a series of separate dance numbers. For example, in 2018 the performance comprised one nagauta dance focused on maiko apprentices, a nagauta performance by geiko, one folk song-based dance, and one tokiwazu (a style of jōruri narrative usually used for kabuki).
Though it doesn’t contain a longer story play like Kitano Odori, Kotobuki-kai provides a good example of various types of songs and dances that Kamishichiken performs.
At 8,000 yen per person the tickets are a touch more expensive compared to the spring program, but Kotobuki-kai is a valuable chance for those visiting Kyoto outside of the cherry blossom season to still enjoy the skills of Kamishichiken’s artists!
Things to See/Do
Notice: the 2020 performance has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.