Hanamachi（the flower towns） in March has a cheerful air. In Japan, there is a seasonal festival called the Doll Festival on 3rd.
In general, it is to pray for female children to have a healthy growth. Hina dolls are decorated with peach blossom in households, kinship gather and enjoy eating and drinking such as sushi and sweet white sake.
In Kyoto, there is a custom to start decorating the dolls in March and keep them until another March in the lunar calendar. Maybe this is why the town is wrapped with an atmosphere so brilliant and festive.
Sweet yellow safflower swings on maiko’s hair this month. Winter was exceptionally cold this year but when I see this flower which is said to be an invitation flower for spring, it makes my heart warmer.
Peach and narcissus also used as motifs for their kanzashi and other accessories for this month. In hanamachi, people enjoy seasonal style according to the rules. Double padded kimono and woven obi are worn until March. But when people feel the harbinger of spring later in the month, some start adopting single padded kimono.
From 10th to the 20th, the Higashiyama Hanatoro Festival (The Flower Lantern Road Festival) is held in town. Maiko from each hanamachi join the festival in turn.
In last year, when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the Tohoku region, it was during the period, so an event was changed to the lantern prayer ceremony. If you have a plan to visit Kyoto this year, how about walking in the alleys lined by warm lanterns to pray for a moment?
Highlight events in Hanamachi,March
●The 10th ～ 20th
Higashiyama Hanatoro Hono-buyo(ritual dance) at Yasaka Shrine
●10th,11th,17th,18th and 20th
Higashiyama Hanatoro ‘Let’s take a shot with maiko san!’ at Kodaiji Park
※This is a photography event with maiko
●From the 25th～
The 60th Kitano Odori(The Kitano Festival) at Kaburenjo Theater in Kamishichiken
Gion Shirakawa Yoi Zakura at around Shinbashi Tatsumi Shrine
※This is a photography event with geiko and maiko
Events in Kyoto,March
Doll’s Festival at Ichihime Shrine
Nagashi-hina Festival at Simogamo Shrine
※dolls are floated down rivers to wash away bad luck
●The 10th ～ the 20th
Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatoro at the area of Higashiyama:
Shorenin Temple ? Maruyama Park ? Kiyomizu Temple
Kyoto Marathon at Nishikyogoku Athletic Park ? Heian Shrine
●The 15th-the 17th
Seiryu-e （The Blue Dragon Festival） at Kiyomizu Temple
Saga Dainenbutsu Kyogen Play and the Torch Ceremony at Seiryoji Temple
Hanezu Dance Festival and plum blossom viewing at Zuishinin
The 60th Kitano Dance Festival at Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater
Gion Sirakawa cherry blossom illumination
at around Shimbashi Tatsumi Shrine
Have you ever heard of ‘Shikomi san’!?
Before the cherry blossom season of April, a number of visitors gradually increase in March’s Kyoto. I assume most of them visit hanamachi(flower towns), but among them, you sometimes see parents and their daughters carrying huge suitcases with a bit of nervous looks.
Junior high school in Japan have a graduation ceremony in the middle of this month. Right after the ceremony, many ‘shikomi san’ (girls preparing to become professional maiko) leave their hometowns to start new lives in this very special town. They pack minimum belongings in their bags and pass through a gate of okiya (a boarding house for maiko).
Though they had decided to enter the world of hanamachi with their own decisions, they are still at the age of fifteen or so. When they think of what it is like to be in an unknown world, it might not be so hard for you to imagine that tiny hearts are about to burst with anxiety.
They wave as a matter of course. Okami (proprietreness) of okiya knows how they feel, so she advices the girls and parents to come to Kyoto as soon as possible before they get homesick or too worried about coming to a new world.
Parents often come to okiya to see them off, you can probably imagine their feeling as well. It must be one of the most heart-aching time. But daughters decided to go on their own ways. All they can do is to back them up. The next time when parents can pass through a gate of okiya, it will be the day of ‘omisedashi’(the day one debuts as a professional maiko) .
The spring dance festival is coming soon so both geiko and maiko of every hanamachi spend the busiest days…and along with them, genuine hard-training to become maiko is about to start in March.
Straight after receiving a certificate at Junior High School, many ‘shikomi san’ enter hanamachi as trainees.
Photos：Copyright(c)2012 Geisha Japan All Rights Reserved
Special Thanks to： WALKKYOTO（some images on this article are provided by http://walkkyoto.exblog.jp/i30/）