When talking about Gion District in Kyoto, most people would associate it with geisha. It is pretty understandable considering that the district was known as the most exclusive and well-known geisha district during the Middle Age. Even until now, geisha still exists. The district is located right across Yasaka Shrine which is situated at Shijo Avenue. Aside from preserving geisha culture and existence, a part of the area has been declared and claimed apart of national historical preservation spot. The local government has completed the street restoration to preserve the beauty and natural appeal of Gion.
Exploring Gion District
The area is between Kamo River (located in the west) and Yasaka Shrine (located in the east). If you explore the area, you will see traditional and old-school restaurants and shop. It makes you feel as if you were back in the past, with the exact atmosphere and situation like the old Gion. You can also find tea houses or ochaya where geisha (in Kyoto dialect, it is called geiko) and maiko (geiko apprentice) have their entertainment.
One of the major appeals of Gion is the (traditional) wooden houses. In the past, property taxes were charged based on the street frontage. The houses were then built with only 5 to 6 meters width of narrow facades but it can actually extend to 20 meters from the street.
Feel free to come to Gion at any time of the year. However, the best period to really enjoy the district is in the springs – right in the time of cherry blossom. The flower will perfectly suit the view of the old and traditional Gion street. The perfect spot to visit is Shirakawa Canal, passing through the district. You will also see light-up trees that will take place from late March to early April. It’s really pretty and you will soak in the atmosphere.
What to Do at Gion?
Hanami-koji Street is the most popular area extending from Shijo Avenue to Kenninji Temple. The place is pricey and nice to dine, with side alleys lined with the old wooden machiya houses. The most popular menu is Kyoto-style kaiseki ryori along with other international and local meals.
Another popular area is Shirakawa area running along the famous Shirakawa Canal, which is parallel to Shijo Avenue. The canal itself is lined with high-class ochaya and restaurants as well as willow trees. If you can afford an ochaya, you can choose the rooms overlooking the popular canal. When compared to Hanami-koji Street, Shirakawa area is quieter – perfect for those looking for a more peaceful and serene atmosphere.
A lot of tourists are expecting to meet or see maiko or geiko on their way to their entertainment. If you do find one, be polite. Don’t be like a ruthless and impolite paparazzi. They won’t mind taking a picture with you if you do behave politely.
A cultural show can be accessed at Gion Corner, right at the end of Hanami-koji Street. The show is about introducing Japanese traditional arts, including ikebana, Kyogen comic plays, tea ceremony, dance performance, bunraku, and others. They are performed by real maiko. In the event you are coming to Gion in April, you may be lucky to experience Miyako Odori –along with daily performance and entertainment by maiko.
Coming to Gion
You can easily reach Gion with the train or the bus. From JR Kyoto Station, take bus number 206 or 100 and get off at Gion stop. It takes around 20 minutes to reach the area. The fare is around ¥230 per person. If you use the train, you can stop at Gion Shijo Station at Keihan Line or at Kawaramachi Station at Hankyu Line.
Does Gion sound interesting? Want to come here for your next holiday? Be sure to plan now! Manage and reserve everything, including the flight services with ANA All Nippon and also Japan Airlines. Go to Airpaz for the reservation.