Sep. 26, 2019 UPDATE
Gion District- 祇園地区 -
Gion is a historical sight, but you can also find matcha sweets and souvenirs here. Many buses go through Gion so it is also easy to go to other sightseeing spots from Gion.
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Story & Recommendation
Gion is the most famous geisha district of Kyoto, where you stand a chance to see a maiko
Gion is a famous geisha district in Kyoto where you stand a chance to see a real geisha. Tea houses and Japanese restaurants line the streets and give you a feeling of really being in Kyoto. Shops renovated from old houses can be found on Hanami-koji Street. Yasaka Pagoda, the third highest wooden building in Kyoto, in Hokan-ji Temple is a landmark in Gion and a great place to take pictures. The area of Gion developed to serve the needs of visitors to Yasaka Shrine, and started to flourish during the Meiji period (1868-1912). Now it is always busy with tourists. The district is designated as a historical landscape preservation zone, and walking here you had flown back in time to the Meiji period. Walking on the stone pavement, you will feel like you were a samurai or a gorgeous maiko (apprentice geisha) of the days gone past.
Yasaka no To Pagoda
Yasaka Street is one of the ways to get to Kiyomizu temple. The pagoda in the picture is Yasaka pagoda, a symbol of Gion. The pagoda is supported with one big pillar called shin-bashira, and because of this pillar the construction is said to be strong against earthquakes. If you are lucky, you can go to the second floor, so if their gate to the pagoda is open we hope you go and try your luck. Notice that if the weather is bad, they might not let you climb to the second floor.
The south side of Hanami Koji street
This is the main street. There are long-standing shops and brand new stores here. The chances of seeing a maiko are high. Electrical wires are buried underground to keep the old scenery intact. To the south is Kennin-ji Temple where modern art exhibitions are held irregularly. The atmosphere of the temple is mixed, there is old like this stone pavement in the picture, and then there is new modern art.
Be careful not to slip on the Sannei-zaka slope
One of the six approaches to Kiyomizu Temple. Tradition says that if you slip here, you will die within three years. Walk carefully, just in case. The regulations for repairing the buildings on the street are strict. Because of this, most buildings remain almost unchanged from the Taisho period (1912-1926).
Go see the Gion Matsuri festival
A festival at Yasaka Shrine has been observed from over 1100 years ago. It is carried out for a month from July 1 to 31 every year, and believed to protect people from disasters. More info: https://sharing-kyoto.com/event_Gion_Matsuri_Festival/ The highlight of the event is on 17th and 24th, when 33 gorgeously decorated floats called yamaboko go around the center of Kyoto. It is known as one of the biggest festival in Japan. If you are in Kyoto during the festival, you have to go see it!
- Manner & Tips -
Hanami-koji Street is very busy with cars and bicycles. Please refrain from taking pictures with selfie sticks. Also geisha and maiko are always in a hurry so don’t disturb them too much.