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Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kyoto
Population
2,644,331

Gion

The imagery of geisha almost always springs to mind when people think of Japan—set foot in Kyoto’s Gion district and you might just bump right into one.

The original Japanese pleasure quarter, Gion is Kyoto condensed into a scene straight out of Memoirs of a Geisha. This is where you might just spot a maiko (geisha-in-training) hurrying along lantern-lit alleyways before slipping out of sight through a silent sliding door.

Explore this fashionable pleasure quarter well-preserved since the classical period of Japanese history.

Explore this fashionable pleasure quarter well-preserved since the classical period of Japanese history.

Filled to the matcha-bowl brim with geisha inns and historic ochaya (tea houses), this picturesque district is located within close proximity to Yasaka-jinja, the brilliantly bright orange sanctuary formerly known as Gion Shrine.

Originally constructed to appease the gods following a ravaging plague to the city, the iconic landmark has also played host for the past 1,000 years to the annual Gion Matsuri; a raucous affair that has metamorphosed from a religious ceremony to a less than holy summer block party. From people promenading in yukata robes (the festival fashion of choice) to the procession of large-scale yamahoko floats whose unparalleled craftsmanship have earned them a UNESCO nod, Gion’s tranquil streets come alive with equal parts food stalls and festival goers throughout the month of July.

Restaurant in Kyoto

Gion’s traditional streets are as well-preserved as its hospitality – enjoy multi-course meals in one of the many ryotei restaurants.

With two bus routes stopping directly at Gion from Kyoto central station, you can explore the streets lined with exclusive ryotei restaurants preparing and preserving the culinary culture of Kyoto cuisine. Known throughout Japan as ‘kyo-ryori’, the subtle flavors and oh-so delicate garnishes in this seasonal cooking style make for nothing short of an ‘hallelujah’ eating experience.

Nearby is the classic cobblestone street of Hanami-koji, lined with traditional wooden townhouses that now simultaneously serve as souvenir or tea shops. Yes they’re touristy but in a charming, understated way.

Geisha hunters can secure their chances of seeing one in person with a performance at Gion Corner, a small theater located at the end of Hanami-koji that offers a reasonably-priced conclusion to their pursuit.

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How To Get There

By train

The closest train station to Gion District is Gion-Shijo Station, accessible on the Keihan Main Line (approx. 15 minutes one-way from Kyoto station). 

By bus

From Kyoto Station take either the number 100 or 206 Kyoto City Bus that stops right in front of Yasaka-Jinja Shrine, where you can take a scenic walk to Hanami-koji street.

Where To Stay

Kyoto Gion U-BELL Hotel
  • Higashiyama-ku Kiyomotocho 359 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 605-0084
  • 0.0 km
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Guest House Mon Cherie Gion
  • Higashiyamaku Shinbashidori Yamatooji Higashiiru 2 Hashimotocho 382 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 605-0083
  • 9.1/10
  • 0.0 km
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Kyoto Gion Shinbashi-an
  • Higashiyama-ku Hashimotocho 405-15 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 605-0083
  • 8.6/10
  • 0.1 km
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Kizashi The Suite
  • Higashiyama-ku Gion-machi Kitagawa 275 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 605-0073
  • 8.2/10
  • 0.1 km
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