May 23 (Thu) – May 24 (Fri), 2019
May 25 (Sat) – May 26 (Sun), 2019
Venue Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre
Tickets will be available for purchase at the door.
The Azuma Odori
The Azuma Odori is an annual recital of traditional dance and music performed by the geisha of the Shinbashi geisha district. The world of the geisha districts may seem remote and forbidding, but this is one occasion where anyone can come to see the performances of geisha and not only that, you can sample the food and drink of the kagai: the hospitality of that world.
What is Shinbashi?
In the Edo period, the licensed brothel districts like the Yoshiwara in Edo (the old name for Tokyo) became cultural centers and places for the elite to meet. With the Meiji Restoration in 1868, there was the creation of new cultural centers totally separate from the brothels, but similarly places for the elite to meet – the “kagai” or “geisha districts.” In particular, Shinbashi became the meeting place of the new elite of government officials and top businessmen and in turn, Shinbashi prided itself on performances of dance and music of high quality.
What is Azuma Odori?
Following the example of the kagai in Kyoto and Osaka that created special theaters and special performances to present the dance and music of the geisha districts to the general public in 1925, the Shinbashi Enbujo was built as a theater especially dedicated to presenting the art of geisha and the opening was the occasion of the very first Azuma Odori. The theater burned down during World War II, but was rebuilt in 1948 and reopened with the 15th Azuma Odori. The performances of this time were particularly sensational. The geisha Marichiyo became a star for her performances of handsome male roles. She was a star not only among the patrons of Shinbashi but also among the men and women of the general public. Marichiyo continued to be a star from the time that she participated in that first post-war Azuma Odori in 1948 until her retirement as a geisha in 1971. The Azuma Odori also featured new world by such famous writers as Kawabata Yasunari and Yoshikawa Eiji. Every year the program is different and always features a mix of classics and new pieces, but always concludes with all the geisha in their formal kimono performing the lively song and dance sawagi.
The Hospitality of the Geisha District
The Azuma Odori is not only the performances on stage. In the lobby, it is possible to drink tea prepared by geisha with the elegant movements of the tea ceremony. The ryotei of the geisha districts where parties are held are also famous as restaurants and you can eat Shokado bento from such famous Shinbashi ryotei as Shin Kiraku, Kanetanaka and Tokyo Kitcho or simpler bento and even have unique variety of Japanese sake.
What is a Shokado Bento?
Today there is a dazzling variety of shapes and sizes of bento lunch boxes, but one of the most classical forms is the Shokado bento which is a square box divided into four with all kinds of food, often in attractive little bowls in each section. It is said that the first owner of Kitcho originated this style, but now they are produced by all the top ryotei, each with their own attractive features.
A Sushi Bento from a Ryotei!
There are also simpler bento like a sushi rice orizume that has been produced with the joint input of all the top ryotei. It is a colorful feast with shrimp, white fish and broiled anago conger eel mixed with sushi rice and topped with yellow strands of shredded omelet.