Dancing the Kanazawa Odori in the Castle Town of the Kaga Domain (Video)
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Kanazawa Geiko, Inheritors of Artistic Traditions
“The heavens sing” is a local expression that embodies just how popular the Japanese musical drama nō is in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, where even gardeners and carpenters can be heard singing snatches of the classical music as they work high up in a tree or on a roof. The artistic traditions instilled over the centuries by the lords of Kaga, as Kanazawa was known in feudal times, live on today in many forms.
In particular, the geiko of Kanazawa—the local name for the entertainers commonly known as geisha—are renowned for their mastery of traditional arts, their graceful demeanor in kimono, and their omotenashi, the attentive hospitality with which they see to their guests’ every need.
More than for drinking or dining, patrons at the teahouses in the three chayagai, or teahouse districts, of Kanazawa are there to enjoy the artistic performances of the geiko. After pouring rounds of drinks and making lively conversation, the women perform their singing and dancing, enthralling the audience with their graceful movements to the sounds of shamisen music. The geiko put their hearts into their performance, and etiquette dictates that guests should refrain from drinking or conversing during that time.
The last number on the program, “Kanazawa Fūga,” performed by geiko from the three chaya districts of Higashi, Nishi, and Kazuemachi all dancing together, is the grand finale. “Kanazawa Fūga,” set to words composed by the award-winning Japanese author Muramatsu Tomomi, includes many exciting hand-drum passages. In a bright and lively atmosphere, the dancers fill the stage and bring the Kanazawa Odori to a close.
(Originally written in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Kanazawa Cable Television. Banner photo: Geiko performing the Kanazawa Odori. All photos © Kanazawa Cable Television.)