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Kimono Blog &  Events

Performance @ Anniversary This April 7th, 2019

This April 7th, 2019 we are celebrating 10 years of business and welcome everyone to join us as we take over the Schedel Japanese Gardens in Elmore Ohio. This free to the public anniversary event will include a display of Japanese kimono with a heavy focus on furisode, and even more excitingly special performances by Hanaka 花香. Hanaka 花香 will be putting on two separate performances at the anniversary event. Each performance is that of a traditional Japanese dance, both of which have otherwise not been performed in NW Ohio, or perhaps even all of Ohio previously.

More About The Perfomer Hanaka 花香:

Hanaka has been studying traditional Japanese dancing at the Kabuki Academy since 2009. Under the direct tutorage of Mary Mariko Ohno, Jennifer Dowling received her dancing stage name, Hanaka, and debuted onstage at the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom festival) at the Seattle Center in 2012. Since then, she has been part of the Kabuki Academy’s performing troupe, bringing Nihon Buyoo ニホン ブヨオ dancing to festivals, events and private parties all over the Northwest and to Santa Fe, NM. Hanaka has recently relocated and is now offering the Nihon Buyoo dancing experience to Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and nearby locales. She aspires to take her shiken (test) in hopes to be awarded natori ナトリ status in the near future.

Some Background Information On Kabuki Academy: Mary Mariko Ohno opened Kabuki Academy in the Pacific Northwest in 1983 to instruct interested and talented students in classical Japanese dancing, Naga-Uta shamisen music, singing techniques and the general concepts of kabuki theater arts. Kabuki Academy’s dance style is of the 花柳流, Hanyagi School, which is one of the most popular dancing schools in Japan. Mary Ohno earned her professional dancing licence and it’s title of Hanayagi Fumiryu in July 1966.

The Dances To Be Performed:

The dances she will be performing are very well known pieces.

She will start with a featured excerpt of "Fuji Musumè" ( 藤娘 ) or "Wisteria Maiden". Fuji Musume or "Wisteria Maiden", is a famous classical dance from the Kabuki theaters in Japan.

(Background of the story) The story begins in Otsu, an area outside of Kyoto and around Lake Biwa. Otsu is a city famous for its paintings. People would stroll its art-lined streets, viewing the beauty of the artisans works. One painting in particular, that of the wisteria maiden, caught the eye of a male passerby. As he gazed upon the painting, the Wisteria Maiden became infatuated.

So infatuated in fact, that she came to life, stepping out of the painting. The maiden is dressed in long flowing kimono, a black-lacquered bamboo hat and carrying a beautiful branch of fuji (wisteria). She writes beautiful, heartfelt letters to her love. The letters however go unanswered.

(explanation of the dance)The dance moves through distinct sections, with the dancer miming the joy of a girl in love, then the heartbreak of jealousy and betrayal. The dancer expresses the emotions found in unrequited love in the manner of women of the Edo era (1603-1868). Eventually, sadness and despair take over our maiden and, heartbroken, she returns to the painting. Her return to the painting remains the last pose of the dance.

(explanation of the music)The 'nagauta' ('long song') lyrics that accompany the dance are complex and create a series of suggestive images. They make sensual references to the closeness of the wisteria and its supporting pine tree. Nagauta is the most important school of music in Kabuki theater as it has developed in conjunction with Kabuki.

At 3pm Hanaka will return to the stage area for another dance.

Gion Kouta (祇園小唄) - The Ballad of Gion - segment: Spring

(background) For this dance, Hanaka it taking us off of the Kabuki stage and into a more popular entertainment piece. Although it’s not the oldest of dances, it certainly is the most popular, and even the average person who knows nothing about geisha will know about the famed Gion hanamachi. It is what comes to mind when people picture geisha. The Gion Kouta celebrates the four seasons in Kyoto while paying homage to what makes it so special: maiko. Maiko are apprentice Geisha, and this is the role that the dancer takes on in this dance.

The main thing to note here is the last line of each part that repeats itself throughout the song:

Gion koishi ya darari no obi yo.


Gion, I love your darari obi.

This is where the maiko dancing the song turns around and shows off her darari obi, the hallmark of Kyoto maiko for centuries. The image of a maiko and her darari obi became the quintessential symbols of Kyoto to tourists, and this is what makes this performance the most accessible of Nihon Buyoo dances.

(explanation of the dance)This dance can be performed with a single person or multiple dancers, but at least 1 of them has to portray the Maiko and be the lead in the dance. As a note, this dance is very popular in every Japanese school of dance, even within the geisha districts. Each distinct school has it’s own style of dancing for the song to make it unique with each school. The Kamishichiken / Hanayagi School version is the one that Hanaka will perform. It’s very stylized and features a more “frozen” kata; that is, a very specific positions are held for a few seconds like a pose before moving onto the next one. This version has a very interesting emphasis on the placement of sleeves as they are mostly held at some point during this dance.

Other dance schools and a very brief description of the style: The Gion Kobu / Inoue School is considered the “classic” version. Pontocho / Onoe School is the most active one because it there are no pauses, it continuously flows into the next position. Miyagawa Cho / Wakayagi School seems to combine the holding of the sleeves as the Hanayagi school with the overall movement of Onoe School and the classic independant movement from the Inoue School, adding to it a mirrored movement if there are 2 or more dancers. Gion Higashi / Fujima School does a simplified version of the Inoue School.

(explanation of the music) Gion Kouta is an example of Kouta, or little songs. Gion Kouta is segmented into celebrations of each of the four seasons.

Here are the lyrics

First Part - Spring

Tsuki wa oboro ni Higashiyama,


The moon sits on Higashiyama,

Kasumu yogoto no kagaribi ni,


Through the haze the signal fires can be seen at night,

Yume mo izayō benizakura


Dreaming of the crimson cherry blossoms,

Shinobu omoi wo furisode ni,


I desire to see your furisode,

Gion koishi ya darari no obi yo.


Gion, I love your darari obi.

Second Part - Summer

Natsu wa kawara no yusuzumi,


In summer we keep cool at night by the river,

Shiroi eriashi bonbori ni,


The white of your neck like paper lanterns,

Kakusu namida no kuchibeni mo,


Hides her tears behind her red lipstick,

Moete mi wo yaku Daimonji,


My heart burns like Daimonji,

Gion koishi ya darari no obi yo.


Gion, I love your darari obi.

Third Part - Autumn

Kamo no kawara no mizuyasete,


The Kamo River’s water grows thin,

Musebu seoto ni kane no koe,


The sound of the water and a bell are audible,

Kareta yanagi ni akikaze ga,


Autumn winds blow through the weeping willow,

Fuku ya koyoi mo yo mo sugara,


Tonight my tears will blow away too,

Gion koishi ya darari no obi yo.


Gion, I love your darari obi.

Fourth Part - Winter

Yuki wa shitoshito marumado ni,


Snow falls around the round window,

Tsumoru ōse no sashimukai,


I enjoy a secret meeting face to face with you,

Hikage tsumetaku sayo fukete,


Even by the lantern it is cold as the night goes on,

Moyai makura ni kawa chidori,

もやい枕に川千鳥 ,

On my pillow, the plovers by the river,

Gion koishi ya darari no obi yo.


Gion, I love your darari obi.

For some geographic and cultural references, it’s important to know what some of these terms are. Higashiyama and Daimonji are both mountain ranges that surround Kyoto. In the summer a giant bonfire in the shape of the “大” kanji is lit on the side of Daimonji and can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. The Kamo River is a river that runs right through Kyoto, most notably having the district of Pontocho built right on its shores.

Hanaka is available for performances for festivals, parties, events and exhibitions. Please email or visit

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