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Traditional Japanese Hairstyles and Kimono Attire: The Elegance of Hakata Geigi

While the Geigi (often known as geisha) of Kyoto are renowned, Hakata—a hub of artistic excellence in its own right—also boasts its unique geigi tradition. These skilled performers, affiliated with the Hakata Kenban, bring the region’s cultural heritage to life. A highlight is the “Hakata Odori,” held every December, showcasing the exquisite singing and dancing of these local geigi.

Hakata Kenban, 博多券番

The Rich History of Hakata Geigi Since the Edo Period

Hakata’s geigi history stretches back to the mid-Edo period. Initially, geigi from Osaka, performing in Nagasaki, would often stay in Hakata during their travels. This led to some choosing to reside permanently in Hakata, thus giving birth to the Hakata geigi tradition. Historically, Hakata’s residents have cherished the arts, warmly embracing the geigi culture. At its zenith, over 2,000 Hakata geigi graced the region, gaining national acclaim for their vivacious and generous spirit.

Hakata Kenban, 博多券番Photo from Hakata Kenban Photo Gallery

The Hakata Kenban plays a pivotal role in this tradition, overseeing the scheduling and financial aspects for the geigi. As of November 2023, 15 geigi are actively associated with Hakata Kenban. This organization, once several in number, consolidated about four decades ago. Currently, only Hakata and Nagasaki in Kyushu maintain Kenban.

To become a geigi, aspirants—known as “Han-gyoku”—undergo intensive training in various arts, including dance, singing, and shamisen playing. Once proficient, they perform solo at events and can be personally requested by clients.

Hakata Kenban, 博多券番Photo from Hakata Kenban Photo Gallery

The 2023 Hakata Odori: A Celebration of Art and Tradition

The annual Hakata Odori, held at Hakata-za every December, is a vibrant tapestry of local performances, with Hakata geigi as the star attraction. The 2023 edition, resuming after a COVID-19 hiatus, is particularly special as it marks the 30th commemorative show, scheduled for December 2 and 3. This event offers a unique window into the year-long artistic journey of the Hakata geigi.

Hakata Odori, 博多をどり

Hakata Kenban, 博多券番Photo from Hakata Kenban Photo Gallery

Event Details:
– Hakata Odori
– December 2 and 3, 2023
– Venue: Hakata-za

In addition to the “Hakata Odori,” various festivals and events throughout the year feature Hakata geigi. At the “Toka Ebisu Grand Festival” in January and the “Hakata Dontaku” in May, their performances are central to the festivities. For more details on these events, visit the Hakata Kenban website.

Hakata Odori, 博多をどり

Where to Experience the Grace of Hakata Geigi

While festivals offer public viewing opportunities, Hakata geigi can also be invited to perform at private gatherings, adding a touch of traditional elegance to celebrations like birthdays or weddings. Local ryotei (Japanese-style restaurants) often arrange for such performances.

Hakata Kenban, 博多券番Photo from Hakata Kenban Photo Gallery

For those seeking a more accessible experience, the Hakata Traditional Performing Arts Centre, located near Kushida Shrine, offers a glimpse into this world. Serving as both office and training center for Hakata Kenban, the Centre hosts 50-minute performances by Hakata geigi twice a month, providing an intimate encounter with their artistry.

At the Hakata Traditional Performing Arts Centre, not only can attendees enjoy the mesmerizing performances of singing and dancing, but they can also gain insights into the rich cultural tapestry woven by these talented artists.

You can inquire and register via the Hakata Traditional Performing Arts Centre’s website. Regular shows are held twice a month, open to the first 20 registrants per show, at a fee of ¥3,000. Should spots be available on the day, phone registrations are also accepted.

Hakata Kenban
2-20 Reisen-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Hakata Traditional Performing Arts Centre

Hakata Kenban, 博多券番

Art & Culture
Published: Nov 28, 2023 / Last Updated: Nov 29, 2023

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