1. A Perfect Guide to Geisha Dance Performance

A Perfect Guide to Geisha Dance Performance

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Ai Kazeki

Originally from Tokyo, but lived in France and Switzerland before. Traveled over many European countries. Now a university student in Kyoto. Completely addicted to Kyoto.


Kyoto Geisha Dance


Dance is one of the most important performances Geisha do at Ozashiki.


To an ordinary person, it might be difficult to tell the difference between the dances.


Have you ever wondered what the moves mean, what they represent?


Or were you worried that you do not know much about it before seeing the dance?


Don’t worry, this article will be a complete guide for you to enjoy Geisha dance thoroughly!





■The Four Main Dances (songs)


There are four famous songs performed by Geisha in Kyoto.


They are called Gion Kouta, Kyo no Shiki, Washi ga Zaisho, and Miyagawa Ondo.


They each have different meanings and the impression you get differ from one to another.


I will explain each dance and what the moves mean below.





■Gion Kouta (祇園小唄)


This song is the most famous and typical song for Geisha dance performance.


There are many words that describe places and scenery in Kyoto, such as Higashiyama, Gion, and Daimonji (verse 2) in the lyrics.


There are also words related to Geisha, which are furisode, dararino obi and kuchibeni (verse 2).


Dararino obi is a special way of tying obi for Geisha, like the photo below.




Lyrics (verse 1)



Tsuki wa oboro ni Higashiyama

Geisha is expressing the moon with her hands.



Kasumu yo mai no kagaribi ni



Yume mo izayou benizakura



Shinobu omoi wo furisode ni

Geisha is holding her sleeves to express “furisode”, which are the sleeves of kimono.





祇園恋しや だらりの帯よ

Gion koishi ya dararino obi yo









■Kyo no Shiki (京の四季)


This song mainly focuses on Gion and surrounding areas, Higashiyama and Maruyama.

It is a very Kyoto like, calm and elegant song.



Lyrics (verse 1)



Haru wa hana


いざ見にでんせ 東山

Iza mini dense Higashiyama


色香あらそう 夜桜や

Irokou arasou yozakura ya



Ukare ukare te

The literal meaning here is floating and floating.

Geisha is expressing the moves with her fan.





粋も無粋も ものがたい

Iki mo busui mo monogatai


二本差しても 柔らこう

Nihon sashitemo yawarakou


祇園豆腐の 二軒茶屋

Gion doufu no Nigenchaya

みそぎぞ 夏は うち連れて

Misogizo Natsu wa uchi turete




川原につどう 夕涼み

Kawara ni tudou Yu suzumi


よいよい よいよい

Yoiyoi yoiyoi












■Washi ga Zaisho (わしが在所)


This is a country song. It expresses the life at the countryside, mainly the events and customs.

It is a simple and natural song.

In the dance, you can see the charming moves of Geisha.




Lyrics (verse 1)

わしが在所は 京の田舎の片ほとり

Wahsi ga zaisho wa Kyo no inaka no hotori



Yase ya Oohara ni ushi hiite


柴打盤 床机頭へちょいと載せ

Shibauchiban shougiatama e choito nose

In this line it is saying, putting a shibauchiban on the top of a shougiatama (small table).

Geisha is making a gesture of it in the dance.




Hashigo kawasenkaina

In this line it is saying, why don’t you buy a ladder.

The Geisha is expressing a woman looking for someone that would buy one.





黒木買わしゃんせ エエエエ

Kurogi kawashanse e e e e








■Miyagawa Ondo (宮川音頭)


This is a very bright and gorgeous song, often danced at the very end.

It expresses the specialties and delicious meals of Kyoto.



Lyrics (verse 1)


Machi mo noyama mo hanazakari



Kyo no miyako ni haru ga kita


Hana no miyako ni haru ga kita


花は宮川 花は宮川

Hana wa Miyagawa Hana wa Miyagawa


ヨーイ ヨーイ ヨイ京おどり

Yo-i yo-i yoi Kyo odori







In the second verse, there are many words to do with specialties of Kyoto.

To make it easier, I have underlined them and put a brief explanation of what it is.


Lyrics (verse 2)


Kuni e miyage wa miyakobeni (precious lipstick)





Natto (fermented soybeans) yatsuhashi (cinnamon flavored traditional dessert of Kyoto) misuyabari (sewing needles)



Suguki (fermented pickles) shibazuke (vegetable picked in red shiso leaves) goshikimame (five-colored roasted sweet beans)


みやげばなしは みやげばなしは

Miyage banashi wa miyage banashi wa


ヨーイ ヨーイ ヨイ京おどり

Yo-i yo-i yoi kyo odori



It is saying that there are many specialties to get as a souvenir in Kyoto, but they hope that the best souvenir is the experience of seeing the dance!









Did you get motivated to see the dance and see if you can notice the moves you learned today?

To actually see the dance, please have a look at the tours we have!

We have a Geisha Tour where you can enjoy not only Geisha dance but also chatting, playing games, and taking photos with Geisha!


If you want to see more video clips, check our youtube channel as well!



For more articles about dances, check these out too!








祇園小唄. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2017, from http://www.worldfolksong.com/songbook/japan/gion-kouta.htm

(n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2017, from http://www15.tok2.com/home/waon/hauta/hauta19.htm


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