Azuma Odori: A Rare Chance to see Shinbashi Geisha Perform Their Elegant Songs and Dances
© Kentaro Kumon
The world of the Shinbashi Karyukai geisha is usually off-limits to unfamiliar visitors. But once a year, an exception is made: the Azuma Odori dance festival, where anyone is welcome to enjoy the elegant singing and classic dancing on offer. This year’s Azuma Odori will be held between May 24 and 27 at Tokyo’s Shinbashi Enbujo Theater.
“Azuma Odori” literally means “Dances of the East,” and has a long history as a showcase event for the geisha based in the Shinbashi area, who have long been known for their rigorous training and stunning skill as dancers. The first Azuma Odori was held in 1925 as the very first show at the Shinbashi Enbujo Theater, and this year’s event will be the 94th.
For the four days of the festival, the Shinbashi Enbujo Theater becomes almost like a traditional Japanese restaurant. Not only can visitors enjoy authentic geisha entertainment on-stage—an opportunity usually restricted to a very select circle—at intermission they can even buy “Azuma Odori” meals specially prepared by local restaurants for the once-a-year festival.
This year’s theme is “The Art of Shinbashi as Shown Through the Classics.” Each performance has two dazzling, elegant acts, and the whole is arranged and directed by Nishikawa Sakon, head (iemoto) of the Nishikawa-ryu Rifuu-ha school.
If the stage is where geisha vie to be the best, the table plays the same role among high-class ryotei restaurants in the area. The “Porcelain Shokado Bento” is a special bento box made by a rotating selection from some of Shinbashi’s finest restaurants, including Tokyo Kitcho, Shin Kiraku, Kanetanaka, Yonemura, and Matsuyama. Two to three restaurants compete to produce the most delicious version of the same basic menu each day. Tea and alcoholic drinks are also available during intermission. At the tea ceremony area on the second floor of the theater, geisha will serve matcha green tea and sweets, and a special selection of sake and snacks will be served at the Shinbashi Ryotei Sakedokoro (restaurant bar).
Two performances each will be held on the 24th (Thu) and 25th (Fri) of May, while on the 26th (Sat) and 27th (Sun), there will be three performances, for a total of ten performances in all. Tickets are on sale now!
The Azuma Odori festival is a rare and one-of-a-kind opportunity to glimpse the secret and world of the Shinbashi geisha, an experience far from everyday and almost like being in a dream. Don’t miss this special occasion!
94th Azuma Odori Dance Festival
Venue: Shinbashi Enbujo Theater
Address: 6-18-2 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
Venue telephone number: +81 (0)3-3541-2600
Inquiries: Tokyo Shinbashi Kumiai (Association)
Telephone: +81 (0)3-3571-0012 (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Mon-Fri)
Ticket types and pricing:
Box seats: 9,000 JPY
First-floor seats: 7,500 JPY
Second-floor seats (front/right wing): 6,000 JPY
Third-floor seats, second-floor left wing seats: 2,500 JPY
Student discounts: Tickets sold on day of performance available at half price with presentation of student identification
Telephone: Ticket Phone Shochiku: 0570-000-489
Online: Web Shochiku
Feature phone: http://www.ticket-web-shochiku.com
Ticket windows: Shinbashi Enbujo ticket window/Kabukiza/Osaka Shochikuza/Sunshine Theater
* Sunshine Theater ticket window sales and pick-up available between 2:00 and 6:00 p.m.