Gion Corner - Kyoto culture in 1 night
Whether your time in Kyoto is limited or whether you are a big fan of Japanese/ Kyoto culture, the Gion Corner (located at the Yasaka Hall) is a great way to experience traditional Kyoto. Everyday (from December-March only on Fri,Sat,Sundays) at 6:00pm and at 7:00om the show takes place for about 50 minutes. The entrance fee is 3150 yen (around 30 euro's) and is definitely worth a visit. Students and children get a discount. I stronly recommend this place to every single traveller in Kyoto.
Upon entering the Yasaka Hall building in Gion you will find yourself in a nicely decorated room full of Maiko/geisha hair ornaments. Videos are played explaining the Maiko/Geisha history and the hair ornaments will leave you in awe of the great detail the ornaments are made with. I was struck with fascination when I learned the hair ornaments resemble the ranking of the Maiko/Geisha. This hall is perfect to get you even more excited to see the show.
After paying you get to visit the main performance hall. The Gion corner has 7 types of performing arts, most of which are performed every day. (A slight change in programme is possible. Like the day I went the Kabuki was cancelled and we got a Kimono demonstration instead.)
The performances you will see are: Ikebana (flower arrangement), Koto (string instrument), Gagaku Court Music, Tea ceremony, Comedy theater and of course Maiko (Geisha student) dance. Normally there is also Bunraku theater, but while I was there we enjoyed a Kimono Dressup instead as mentioned above.
For the brave among you, you can also participate in the event when asked. The show requires volunteers for the Tea Ceremony. I would recommend you volunteer if you do not have a fear of stage fright, since it is a once in a lifetime experience.
Is it suitable if I do not speak Japanese?
The show has been made with the intention of attracting the Japanese audience. Therefore the explanations and the comedy bits are in Japanese. However, the Japanese are very welcoming towards tourists. When tourists want to participate when asked there is an English guide available for you which for example shows you have to perform the tea ceremony the right way.
Also the 'Comedy skit' part of the show is entirely in Japanese. When you pay the entrance ticket you will be handed an English leaflet explaining each art individually and you get a detailed script of the Comedy skit, so even though you will not understand a single word they are saying you will understand the main story of the Skit, which makes it a pleasurable experience.
At the end of the show you will also get a chance to take a memorabilia with you. You get the opportunity to take a picture together with the performing Maiko of the evening. I loved taking a picture with the Maiko. (by the way, during the show, you are free to take pictures and videos as well...)
When to queue?
I recommend you being at the venue at least an hour before the show starts. Especially during high season the shows can get very crowded. The main hall is pretty big, but can get full. So I recommend being there 1 hour beforehand to make sure you get a seat.
Gion Corner is a great experience which musn't be missed during your stay in Kyoto and is definitely worth the fee you pay for it.
Address: Yasaka Hall Shijo-sagaru Hanami-koji Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
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