When we talk about the spring in Kyoto, images of cherry blossoms come to mind. But the flower season actually starts much earlier, in February, with the blossoming of the plum flowers. One of the best places in Kyoto to enjoy these is a lovely shrine located in southern Kyoto, Jōnangū. …continue reading
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 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
Source: Japan Cheapo
June marks the start of the rainy season throughout much of Japan. But unlike the sprawling metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka, Kyoto isn’t crowded with skyscrapers and shopping malls. Rather, it’s filled with open-air gardens, plus temples and shrines. So what do you do in Kyoto when the rain drops start to fall?
The Gion Festival (Gion Matsuri 祇園祭) is held every year for an entire month in Kyoto in July, and is one of the most famous festivals in all of Japan. Here is everything you need to know about this timeless, lively celebration!
Gion Matsuri is the biggest festival in Kyoto, and also one of the largest festivals in all of Japan. The festival was originally held to protect people from plague, but has grown into a grand celebration of all of Kyoto City. Today, Gion Matsuri is more of a month-long summer festival in which locals and visitors all gather to enjoy the festive atmosphere. That being said, Gion Matsuri continues to uphold rituals and traditions established when it first began almost 2000 years ago.
Photo: Keiichiro Fujimoto
Gion Matsuri first originated in 869 as a part of a purification ritual called goryo-e to appease the deities thought to cause fire, floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. At the time, the people were suffering from a plague which they attributed to the rampaging diety Gozu Tennō (牛頭天王). Japan’s ruler at the time, Emperor Seiwa, ordered prayers to be made to the god of the Yasaka Shrine, Susanoo-no-Mikoto. 66 massive “halberd” floats, one for each of the traditional provinces of Japan, were prepared and placed at the garden of Shinsen-en, along with portable shrines called mikoshi (神輿) from the Yasaka Shrine.
Additionally, a local boy was chosen to be a “sacred messenger” to the gods. The boy was seated on one of the floats, and he was not allowed to touch the ground from the 13th to the ending of the first parade on the 17th. This tradition was repeated over centuries during times of epidemic, and is still upheld to this day as a part of the annual Gion Matsuri .
Photo: Japan …continue reading
Source: deep kyoto
Here is the latest installment from Edward J. Taylor‘s ongoing exploration of Kyoto’s streets.
The weather over the weekend had proven a surprise, with the blemish-free bluebird skies of May bringing with it temperatures of 29°C. (It’s going to be a hot summer.) So I decided to set off early, which isn’t terribly ideal as things in Kyoto don’t begin to open until 10 am. But Manjuji-dōri looked predominantly residential anyway, and I wanted to beat the heat.
I started with my back to the behemoth Aeon Mall. I’m mere steps into the journey when I realize I’ve chosen the wrong direction, and would spend the duration of the walk staring into the sun. When doing walks like these, it is important to keep what in martial arts is called Enzan no Metsuke: gazing at a far off mountain. It is important to keep one’s eyes soft, like in taking in something large out in the distance. In doing so, the field of vision broadens, and one is able to notice more overall across the landscape, rather than having the attention get captured by a single object. But with the sun directly in the eyes, it is impossible to do anything but squint. Good thing I’m wearing sunscreen.
Kyoto’s western neighborhoods are by no means her most attractive, and these first few blocks consist of little besides low squat apartment blocks of an older vintage, and unnamed boxes of small industry. Traversing the cross-streets is like fording a river; commuters pour down the roads in the direction of workplaces and factories just like these.
Manjuji-dōri is suddenly severed by the Kyoto College of Nursing. Google Maps shows …continue reading