• Beniko

24. Kaomise Soken (Kabuki Viewing)

When the famous signboard called Maneki (まねき, a gigantic collection of wooden name boards on which actors' names are written) is raised above the entrance of Minamiza (南座, a Kabuki theater in Kyoto), people in Kyoto know that Kaomise (顔見世) play is stared and recognize the arrival of winter.

Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a traditional musical play performed exclusively by male actors. Kaomise is an "Face-showing" ceremony of Minamiza annually held in December, celebrating the new season and the new cast.

On the other hand, Kaomise Soken (顔見世総見) is an event of Hanamachi (花街, district where Maiko and Geiko reside). On each day of Kaomise Soken period, a group of Maiko (舞妓) and Geiko (芸妓) from one of the five Hanamachi districts visit Minamiza to see Kaomise. At this time of the year, Minamiza is filled with audience, especially with many ladies proudly dressed up in beautiful Kimono. In fact, many Kyoto women purchase new Kimono every year just for this occasion. Of course, we Maiko are dressed up in gorgeous Haregi (晴れ着, Kimono for special occasions) on this day.

The Sajiki (桟敷, balcony) seats located at the both side of the theater are for us to be seated. It must have been quite a spectacle to see a number of Maiko and Geiko seated in rows. I admit that people used to stare at us with admiration during the interlude.

Despite the purpose of Kaomise Soken, which is to learn performing skills from Kabuki actors, I couldn't help yawning because the play was too long and difficult. The embarrassing thing was the actor on the stage who turned his eyes on me every time I yawned.

Anyways, the best part comes during the interlude. We were allowed to visit the dressing room of our favorite actor, and ask for a autograph on our Kanzahi of December (簪, hair ornaments). We Maiko wear a uniform Kanzashi of each month, and December one has miniature Maneki attached, as you can see in the picture below.

"How nice! you got Ebizo's!",

"Mine is good too. I got from Kankuro!",

"I went to Tatsunosuke!",

and one of us would say, "Oh, I should have gone to Tatsunosuke, too...".

At night, showing off the autographs to one another, our girl talk never ended.

Serving at kabuki actors' Ozashiki (お座敷, Maiko banquet) was every Maiko's dream, because they will never call you unless you are truly good, especially at dancing. It was very tough for me to dance in front of the actors since they were no mean artists of dancing after all.

Thank you very much.

Talk to you soon.