by Devon Sponheimer
Way back on my very first trip to Japan, I wanted to experience as much of the country and culture as possible (little realizing that I’d get to travel there AGAIN in the future). For many of our readers, however, a trip to Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we always strive to help you make the most of your trip.
Gion Corner in Kyoto is a Japanese culture stage show dedicated to the arts and striving to provide the opportunity for tourists to experience as much Kyoto culture as possible during their stay. In one evening they offer seven different types of traditional arts, giving you the opportunity to check out these really cool (and often ancient!) art forms. Prices are reasonable and the site is tourist friendly.
Be aware, since the show is only an hour, this is more of a ‘tasting menu’ of the arts. Our advice is to get there early and get a seat in one of the first few rows. The tea ceremony is performed on the right side of theatre.
Kyo-Mai Dance – On many Japanese “To-Do” lists, is seeing a Geisha and experience Geisha culture. As Bryce detailed in Japlanning 101 - Geishas and Gion, an experience with a Geisha can be tricky to set up without the proper connections and can be quite costly. Maiko are apprentice geisha and perform nightly at Gion Corner in traditional dress. These ladies will one day be professional geisha, so it’s a very cool opportunity to see them making their way towards that goal. Don’t be fooled with the name ‘apprentice’ however, these ladies are certainly skilled! In addition to the show, Gion corner also features a Maiko gallery, with videos, hair decorations, fans and other Makio/Geisha items are on display.
- Flower Arranging (Ikebana) – Two Maiko take the stage and put together a flower arrangement. It was a peaceful and serene part of the evening.
- Tea Ceremony – If you’re not able to take advantage of a tea ceremony (or you’ve got limited time and are looking to cram in as much culture as you can in one evening), Gion Corner has you covered. They use the “ryurei” style of Tea Ceremony, sitting on stools for visitors not used to sitting on tatami. Two guests are selected from the audience to participate and sample the tea.
- Koto Zither – Koto is a Japanese six-stringed instrument, played with ivory plectrums (think guitar picks) worn on the fingers.
- Gagaku Court Music – Traditionally performed at imperial court, shrines and temples. Here, they pair the music with dance.
- Kyogen Theatre – “Typical” ancient Japanese life, portrayed in a comic manner. Although performed in Japanese, you are provided with a brochure that explains the story. Regardless of being able to understand the words, I had a great time watching the performance and even caught myself laughing a few times. Laughter is universal!
- Bunraku Puppet Theatre – Perhaps my favourite part of the evening. Performers take the stage for a puppet play. Although the performers are visible (wearing black), I still found myself completely lost in the performance, and enrapt in the story. Side note: Bunraku is UNESCO listed for a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003.
Although both myself and my group enjoyed the performance, this is certainly a show designed for tourists. Our biggest complaint? Because it is primarily for tourists, and photography is allowed, people will be taking photos, sometimes quite obliviously, which did get a little annoying.
Gion Corner offers two performances daily, one at 6pm and one at 7pm. During non-peak from December until the second week of March, these performances are only Friday through Sunday and national holidays.
- Adults ¥3150
- Students (16-22) ¥2200
- Children (7-15) ¥1900
Group Sales (over 20)
- Adults ¥2200
Tourist Season (Peak Time)
- July 1st – Feb 28th Adults are ¥2500
Be advised, Gion Corner is CASH ONLY, no credit cards are accepted so plan accordingly. Additionally, many hotels offer a discount coupon through a brochure.
- July 16
- August 16
- December 29 – January 3
Gion corner is located at Yasaka Hall 570-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto.
- JR Kyoto Station: Take city bus 206 or 100 to Gion Bus Stop (5 minute walk)
- Keihan Line to Gion Shijo Station (5 minute walk)
- Kawaramachi Station on Hankyu Line (10 minute walk)
Gion corner, as touristy as it might be is a fantastic way to get a glimpse into parts of the world of a geisha, as well as some other talented skills and shows that make for a memorable hour in the Gion district. If you find yourself in Kyoto for a couple of days, enquire with your hotel on getting tickets to one of the shows.
Experienced Gion Corner for yourself?
Tell us in the comments below.