Gion is a well preserved historical district in Kyoto famous for Geisha. The area is full of restuarants, shops, ochaya (teahouses), and many traditional wooden machiya merchant houses that have an interesting history. Because property taxes were so high and based upon street frontage, houses were built very narrow and long. It was really busy with tourists when we visited Gion and at times that made it difficult to really feel the ambiance, but we still thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the area. I guess everyone wanted to spot a Geisha!
Geisha is an old and mysterious profession in Japan and Kyoto’s Gion district is one of the places where you might be able to spot a Geisha. We were lucky and did see some Geisha’s, a taxi full of them, on their way to an engagement. A lot of people mistake Geisha’s for ‘ladies of the night’ but that is not what they do. They are skilled entertainers in the art of ancient tea ceremonies, and they sing, dance, and play music. This historic area of Kyoto is renowned for being the birthplace of Geisha.
We strolled around and found the Tatsumi Bashi Bridge, the famous bridge that was featured in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. The area around the bridge was lovely and the streets were lined with little red lanterns, not to mention the cherry blossoms that just add that extra beauty. The Tatsumi Shrine next to the bridge was pretty at night.
If you truly want to see Geisha’s perform and play their musical instruments, and you happen to be in Kyoto in April, then I highly recommend the Miyako Odori. It was founded by the geiko (the geisha of Kyoto). It was fantastic to see the Geisha’s showcase their talents. Miyako Odori has been shown for over 140 years!
Also in the neighbourhood is Shimbashi, considered to be the most beautiful street in Asia, especially in the cherry blossom season.
Not far from Gion is Pontocho, a narrow lane lined with restaurants, bars, and teahouses. It’s best to visit in the evening because during the day just about everything is closed.
In the Higashiyama District, bordering Gion, is the Maruyama Park. When the cherry trees are in full bloom, this public park becomes Kyoto’s most popular and crowded spot for cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami). In the center of the park is a huge weeping cherry tree that is beautifully lit up at night.
Next to the Maruyama Park is the beautiful Chionin Temple. We almost missed seeing this because we took it off of our list, but then we ended up being so close to it that we went and had a look. I’m so glad we didn’t miss seeing this temple. It’s the head temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism. It also has a really nice traditional Japanese garden that was designed by a monk in the 1600’s.
When you get a bit hungry then an interesting place for local food is the Nishiki Market that is also referred to as Kyoto’s Kitchen. The market is estimated to be 400 years old. We tried a few things here, some tempura prawns, some kind of deep fried potato that had a very sponge like texture, and we sampled various types of Japanese Sake. Gordon is pretty adventurous with food, and he always tries to convince me (or maybe himself) that he likes octopus – the look on his face in the last photo after he took a bite…I’m not so sure he’s a fan!
Not to be missed in my opinion are the crusty bread icecream sandwiches! They are very delicious and little shops making these can be found all over Kyoto.
Where we stayed: Hotel Resol
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel