The Miyako Odori is a colorful dance festival of geishas and maikos from the Gion quarter. The festival takes place in the Gion Kobu Kaburen Theater. It was initiated in 1872 to keep the culture of Kyoto alive after the capital of Japan was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1869. Miyako Odori means "dance of the capital".
Date: 1.-30. April
The "Kamogawa Odori" is also a dance festival of geishas and maikos, but from the Pontocho district on the other side of the Kamo River. The performances take place in the Pontocho Kaburenjo Theater.
Date: 1.-24. May
The "Gion Festival" is named after the Gion district in whose streets the festival takes place. It is one of the biggest festivals in Japan. On the 17th and 24th there are large parades with ships that are pulled through the streets on long ropes. In the evening, stalls with small delicacies line the streets. Many women wear the summer kimono yukata for Gion Matsuri. Gion is a district in downtown Kyoto, many streets are closed for the festival and become a pedestrian zone.
Date: 1.-31. July
On the slopes around Kyoto there are 5 huge characters two of them are called "Dai" (big, great). These are lit at the Daimonji Festival. It starts with the character below the mountain Higashiyama, then the other 4 follow on the other mountains in the north, west and east of Kyoto. The first character is Dai (large), the second is "Myoho" (excellent), the third is called "Funagata" (boat), the fourth is again a "Dai" and the last character means bird "Torigata". The "Daimonji Festival" takes place at the end of the Obon period when the souls of the ancestors go back to heaven. The huge signs should show them the way. The signs are best seen from a roof terrace, hotels offer daimonji specials for this. You can see the first character from the bank of the Kamo River near the Imadegawa Bridge, here you sit in the grass and watch the great fire. The origin of the Daimon-ji festival goes back to the temple Jodo-ji (A temple in Ginkaku-ji). When the temple burned down in the 8th century, the largest shrine in the temple, an image of Amida, was found on Mount Higashiyama the next day. The self-rescue of the Amida image was considered a great miracle. In the year 808 the Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi (Daishi = great master) lit the first "Dai" character exactly at this point in order to end the plague and famine that was raging in Kyoto. The dying stopped and since then a "Dai" has been lit to end epidemics or famine. The "Dai" above the Silver Pavilion was the first of its kind and to this day is always the first to be lit.
Date: August 16, 8 p.m.
At the "Festival of Ages", costumes from different eras of the history of Kyoto are presented. Around 2,000 performers wear the robes from the 8th to the 19th century. The pageant starts at the old Imperial Palace and ends at the Heian Shrine. The "Jidai Matsuri Festival" was introduced after the government moved to Tokyo. It shows the costumes from the time when Kyoto was the capital of Japan.
Date: October 22nd
Note: Dates can change at short notice, it is recommended to ask the organizer for the exact dates.
Kimonos are not only worn by geishas, in Kyoto normal Japanese women also wear this precious garment on special days. In Kyoto, a trained geisha is called geiko and a student is called maiko. The maikos can be recognized by the long, hanging obi (sash). So the ladies in the photo are maikos.