Gion area had been flourished as a main town close to Yasaka shrine as early as in the 12th century until everything was burned out when Japan had a big civil war.
In the Edo period (15th〜18th Century) the area became popular again, and many tea shops started the business. Waitresses who are good at dancing and singing were the origin of GEIKO and MAIKO, and their agents were called OKIYA and the tea shops were called OCHAYA later. In the middle of 17th century, the area had an official permission from Tokugawa shogunate, and was allowed to have a special business style in 1732.
In 1881, the area was divided into two parts (Gion Kobu and Gion Otsubu) by the 3rd governor of Kyoto, and the area used to be a huge residence of samurais who governed Zeze Province (the houses were taken away in 1870) were designated as Otsubu. Gion Otsubu changed its name to Higashi Shinchi (east new territory) in 1949 and started to be called Gion Higashi around 1955. It covers the area between Hanamikoji and Higashioji, north of Shijodori.
EVENTS Annual calendar of Gion Higashi
|January||SHIGYO SHIKI (Inauguration Ceremony of New Year) Jan. 7
Every year in each KAGAI, GEIKO and MAIKO attend this ceremony in formal black kimono, with a rice ear hair ornament on their traditionally coifed hair. The most successful OCHAYA and individual GEIKO and MAIKO of the previous year for their district receive an award of excellence
On the New Year’s eve of the old lunar calendar, special devil dances are performed and dried soy beans are thrown at many shrines and in general households in Japan.
|*EHO MAIRI Feb. 2
Pilgrimage to shrines which lie in the lucky direction on the day before the beginning of spring.
|*MAMEMAKI Feb. 3
Bean-scattering ceremony on the beginning day of spring at Yasaka shrine.
Second Horse enshrining for the former ZEZE clan at Kanki shrine.
|April||HONO MAI Apr. 16
Dance that is dedicated to the arrival of spring at Heian shrine.
|May||REISAI May 13
Annual festival of Kanki shrine
|June||MIYAKO NO NIGIWAI
Dance festival of GO-KAGAI (2 days)/td>
|July||GION MATSURI (One of Japan’s top three festivals)
One of the festivals of Yasaka shrine dates back to the 9th century when a series of plagues were raging throughout the country, as the deity of this shrine is believed to protect the health of Kyoto. The climax is a procession of richly decorated multi-storied, wooden floats, often decorated with precious textiles that came to Kyoto along the Silk Road from Europe and China. GEIKO and MAIKO of Gion Higashi, along with neighboring three other districts, are very busy participating in several events during the month-long festival.
|*MIKOSHIARAI Washing portable shrines Jul. 10|
|*YAMABOKO JUNKO Procession of festival floats Jul. 17|
|*HANAGASA GYORETSU Parade of women with flower hats Jul. 24|
|August||HASSAKU (A Mid Summer day) Aug. 1
GAIKO and MAIKO pay their respects to their teachers and the various OCHAYA they are indebted to. Gratitude is expressed in the Kyoto dialect with:”OMEDETO-SAN DOSU.”
|DAIMONJI OKURIBI Aug. 16
Bonfires of five mountains for escorting the spirits of the dead
GEIKO and MAIKO wearing Yukata (casual summer kimono) hold a recital of song and musical instruments.
|KOTSU ANZEN Week
MAIKO attend a campaign for traffic safety week
MAIKO attend a campaign for all Japan prevention of crimes
|JIDAI MATSURI Oct. 22
One of Kyoto’s three big festivals (along with the May AOI MATSURI, and July GION MATSURI)
This festival was first staged in 1895 to commemorate the establishment of Heian Shrine and Kyoto’s 1100th anniversary. The procession featuring authentic costumes from all of historical periods in Kyoto proceeds from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine. Every year GEIKO and MAIKO from each district dress up in the costumes of famous historical women.
|November||GION ODORI Nov. 1 - Nov. 10|
|ZEI WO SHIRU Canpaign day
MAIKO attend an event to know about taxes.
Festival of kindling a fire at Kanki shrine
Kabuki performances at Minamiza theatre for 26 days
This production of the best Kabuki actors is specially called KAOMISE (face showing). IT dates back more than 300 years with the tradition of hanging out the MANEKI wooden sign boards that announce the names of the performers in front of the famous Minamiza theatre. GEIKO and MAIKO of each district make a stunning colorful public appearance when they go together to see the performances.
|KOTOHAJIME Dec. 13
Things to begin as part of the New Year preparations
GEIKO and MAIKO show their appreciation for the passing year and convey their best wishes, with KAGAMIMOCHI (specially decorated rice cakes), for good relations in the coming year to their teachers and establishments they feel indebted to.
OCHAYA & GEIKO Circle
Office of Gion Higashi(east) OCHAYA Circle・Gion Higashi(east) Geiko Circle
319 Kitagawa Gion-machi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0073 Japan
TEL:(075) 561-0224 FAX:(075) 561-0225
OCHAYA in Gion Higashi(east) district
KAGAI (or HANAMACHI) is the term being used for the districts where GEIKO (called Geisha except in Kyoto) and MAIKO (apprentice of GEIKO) are trained in several classical Japanese arts (dance, song, musical instruments, tea, etc.) and serve for the guests in OZASHIKI of OCHAYA (“Tatami matted room” of “tea house” where people have banquet).
There are GO (five) KAGAI in Kyoto: Gion Kobu, Miyagawacho, Pontocho, Kamishichiken and Gion Higashi.
The events in GOKAGAI that receive the most attention from the public are the annual dance performances (＊＊ODORI).
First four KAGAIs present their ODORIs in spring but only Gion Higashi presents it in autumn.