Situated between Yasaka Shrine and Kamoyawa (Kamo River), Gion is Kyoto’s most famous neighbourhood – known best for its traditional ‘ochaya’ (teahouses), ‘machiya’ (merchant houses) and attendant ‘geisha’. Whether or not you have visited Japan, chances are you will have a strong image in your mind of its fabled geisha. Beautiful yet other-worldly in appearance, the charm and gracefulness of the geisha seduce many and it is here, in Gion, that many still ply their trade.
The precinct is beautifully preserved and highly-photogenic, attracting thousands of visitors each day who come to photograph and glimpse one of the last remaining pockets of Japan’s celebrated Edo Period (1603-1868). Hanami-koji is the most popular dining street within Gion, boating many excellent restaurants that demand a loyal following. Make sure to book well ahead if you wish to dine on Hanami-koji.
Gion is home to many teahouses and traditional restaurants, offering some of Japan’s best ‘kaiseki’ and the chance to be entertained by geisha or their attendant ‘maiko’ (geisha apprentices). A common sight on the streets of Gion and Higashiyama around sundown as they head toward their evening engagement, geisha and maiko are an enchanting sight to behold but do not stop them for photographs. They are on their way to entertain and cannot risk being late. Please be respectful of their space and do not stop or trouble them.