Gion

Discover the best characteristics of Kyoto in Gio

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Gion is very popular among tourists for its bustling downtown streets. The famous Yasaka Shrine is on the outskirts of Gion. Maiko and geisha (known locally as geiko or geigi) entertain guests with songs and traditional Japanese dances. The houses where you can enjoy the company of geisha are gathered together in this famous entertainment district.
Address
Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Phone
(075) 561-1119

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Experience Japan’s Traditional Arts in Gion

If you say “Kyoto-esque,”many tourists probably imagine maiko and geisha. Even though the figure of a geisha dressed in kimono dancing a traditional dance for a gathering in a tatami-roomed tea house can often be seen in movies and elsewhere, it is said that this image is uniquely representative of Kyoto.Gion preserves that image, and, even within Kyoto, is itself a popular sightseeing destination. To begin with, try walking down Gion’s main avenue, Hanamikoji Street. Hanamikoji runs from Kenninn-ji temple to the heart of Kyoto’s Shijo Street. The street is lined on both sides by ochaya, or “tea houses”, sweet shops, restaurants, and more. Maiko and geisha perform dances at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater. Gion can be enjoyed simply by exploring its streets on easy walks, but Gion Corner, which is next door to the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater, is also recommended. Here, you can appreciate Japanese traditional arts such as flower arrangement and tea ceremony, as well as the traditional Kyoto dance, the Kyo-mai, danced by maiko.

Enjoying Gion on Foot

Try walking down Shimbashi Dori to the area called Gion Shirakawa overlooking the Shirakawa Canal. Gion Shirakawa has charming cobblestone streets lined by tea houses called ochaya, to which geisha and maiko come and go.In these streets where the ochaya are, the figures of maiko here and there can be seen.The streets at night, too, the warm glow of the restaurant’s lights give off a different atmosphere and truly old-style Kyoto scenes can be enjoyed. In particular, the area in the heart of Shimbashi Street, called Gion Shimbashi, has been designated and Important National Historical Building Preservation District.

Gion Matsuri

Kyoto’s premier seasonal festival, the Gion Matsuri, is unforgettable. The Gion Matsuri runs every year from July 1st for one month, with religious celebrations at Yasaka Shrine in Gion.In the Heian Period, when Kyoto was the capital and known as “Heian-kyo,” plague frequently afflicted the city.The Gion Matsuri began with ritual music and dancing and carrying decorated Yamaboko floats, paraded on foot through the neighborhood, in order to overcome the plague gods. For more than 1,000 years, ever since the time when Kyoto was known as Heiyan-kyo, the people of Kyoto have preserved this traditional event. Many tourists and locals flock to see the gorgeously decorated Yamaboko floats, particularly the Yoiyama Parade, which takes place in the middle of July (the Yamaboko floats are decorated on streets such as Shijo Street and Karasuma Street).The tradition of decorating these Yamaboko floats has been designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, and, even for Kyoto, it is the festival that sees the largest crowds.

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Reviews

a year ago
Beautiful place
Beautiful place! One could easily get lost in the many small pathways along the way. There are several "hidden spots" that visitors could try to find.
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3 years ago
Walk through old Japan
Walking through the streets of Gion, makes you feel like you have been transported back in time. If you go out at night you might even be lucky enough to see a real Maiko or Geisha. This area truly retains the history of the old capital. There are many traditional restaurants.
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4 years ago
A nice place to see a traditional side of Japan
Gion is the most famous place in Japan for spotting Geisha; although here they use the local term, ‘Geiko’, which translates to mean a ‘person of the arts’. When I visited, I wasn't fortunate enough to see one, which was a shame. However, I still enjoyed my stroll through the area. The path is littered with loads of traditional old streets lined with even older houses; with a mix of theatres and other traditional entertainment. A nice place for a stroll, and maybe if you are lucky you will see a Geiko wandering around.
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4 years ago
Lovely streets and tons of culture!
Gion is a lovely area to just take a stroll and enjoy the traditionally kept streets. I like how the area is split up into a main street (Shijo Dori), with its wealth of traditional goods and tourist shopping spots, and a number of side streets, which are quieter and more reminiscent of an "older" Japan. I particularly enjoy the walk north of Shijo Dori, which if you walk far enough you will reach a small stream/canal (Shirakawa minami dori). This area is great for photos, with large sakura trees cascading over the trickling stream. There are a number of fine restaurants where you can dine and look out along the stream as well, but they tend to be quite pricy. For someone like me who likes to take walks, enjoy the sights of everyday life, and take a few photos, Gion is perfect! You might even catch a glimpse of a few geisha/maiko if you are lucky! *Note: If you are going during the cherry blossom season, then I would bump this review up to 5 stars!
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