Your Guide to Gion, Kyoto’s Famous Geisha District

If you’re fascinated by the atmosphere of old Japan, then Gion is the place for you. Gion (祇園) is Kyoto’s famous Geisha district, as well as the home of the large Gion Matsuri festival held every year in July. Here’s what to do when visiting Gion!

Gion

Gion is a historical district in the city of Kyoto that is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (お茶屋, Japanese teahouses). Gion is famous for being one of the few remaining places in Japan where geiko (芸妓, what “geisha” are called in the Kansai region) and maiko (舞妓, apprentice geiko/geishas) train to perform for guests.

Gion includes the area around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. The Yasaka Shrine was actually originally called Gion Shrine, and was an important pilgrimage spot. The entertainment area developed here to provide the many pilgrims with food and drink.

As kabuki theater grew in popularity, more high-end forms of entertainment were developed, leading to the rise of the geisha. Even today, Gion is known as Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. The district remains packed with bars, restaurants and traditional teahouses, and reaches its peak atmosphere in the early evening. After the sun goes down, street lanterns light up, and the apprentice geisha walk around the back alleys on their way to their various appointments.

Gion can be reached from Kyoto Station by bus 100 or 206, which cost 230 yen to get to Gion bus stop. The closest train stations are Gion Shijo Station on the Keihan Line and Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Line.

Photo: Japan Objects

Shijo Avenue (Shijo-dori)

Shijo Avenue is a popular shopping area filled with stores selling local products. Called Shijo-dori in Japanese, the avenue runs through the center of the Gion district and connects the Kamo River to the Yasaka …continue reading