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Friday, May 23, 2008

Shinbashi fetes its geisha culture


Staff writer

Indulge yourself in the art of geisha at the 84th annual Azuma Odori dance gala in Tokyo's Shinbashi district from May 29 to June 1.

News photo
Chorus line: Geisha performers in the annual Azuma Odori dance gala in Tokyo's Shinbashi district, which has a long history with these traditional Japanese artisans. The 84th staging of the show runs from May 29 to June 1.

Shinbashi has prospered since the Edo Period (1603-1868) as a center of restaurants where geisha — traditional female entertainers — have provided singing, dancing, conversation, games and companionship to customers.

Three shows each day will feature about 60 geisha on three different stages performing traditional Japanese dances, songs and music that has developed in Tokyo over the past 150 years.

The show includes a group of geisha who performed at the U.S. National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., in April.

The opening number is titled "Ume no Sakae (prosperity of plum blossoms)," accompanied by "Nagauta," a lyrical song that is performed in Kabuki. It was choreographed by Sakon Nishikawa, the headmaster of the Nishikawa School of Dance. In it, geisha also play shamisen (three-stringed banjo), taiko (drums), and tsuzumi (hand drum) as accompaniment.

The second act is titled "Omatsuri (Festival)," a colorful dance choreographed by Kikunojo Onoe, the headmaster of the Onoe School of Dance.

The third act, consisting of eight scenes, depicts a pageant of competing flowers traditionally linked to famous sites in Edo, the capital's old name. "Hanakisoi Oedo Hakkei" was choreographed by Jusuke Hanayagi, the headmaster of the Hanayagi School of Dance. The pageant covers the plum blossoms in Nihonbashi, the cherry blossoms in Yoshiwara, the wisteria in Kameido, the iris paddies in Horikiri, autumn flowers in Mukojima, chrysanthemums of Asakusa, and the peony fields of Ueno.

Tickets are priced by class at ¥7,500 (box seat), ¥6,000, ¥5,500 and ¥2,000.

Special box-seat tickets that include a boxed lunch made by six traditional Japanese restaurants cost ¥20,000.

The Azuma Odori (May 29 to June 1) is being staged at the Shinbashi Enbujyo theater, a five-minute walk from Higashi Ginza Station on the Hibiya and Asakusa subway lines, and a three-minute walk from Tsukiji Ichiba Station on the Oedo subway line.

The 90-minute performances start at 11:30 a.m., 1:40 p.m. and 3:50 p.m.

For more information, call Tokyo Shinbashi Kumiai at (03) 3541-7206. For reservations, call Ticket Phone Shochiku at (03) 5565-6000.



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