Gion is a historic district in Kyoto, known for its geisha culture, wooden teahouses, shops and restaurants. Situated between the beautiful Yasaka Shrine and the Kamo River, Gion is characterized by its historic teahouses, many of which have been transformed into boutique shops and fine-dining restaurants. Explore this district by day to shop for local items like candy, pickles and handmade souvenirs, or by night for a chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive geisha experience.
Begin your exploration of Gion in Hanamikoji Street, a strip with side alleys filled with preserved teahouses and traditional wooden façades. Shirakawa is another interesting area alongside the canal of the same name. This quiet canal-side district is near Shijo Avenue and has a selection of upscale restaurants and bars that look out onto the canal’s willow trees.
A good way to experience some of Gion’s cultural attractions is to see a show at Gion Corner. These foreigner-friendly shows demonstrate a selection of traditional Japanese arts, including tea ceremonies, puppet theater, flower arranging, dance performances and comedy plays.
Visitors with Japanese connections or a ticket with a tour company may be able to spend an evening in a traditional teahouse with entertainment lead by a geisha. Geishas, or Japanese hostesses, traditionally provide the evening’s drinks and performances of music and dance.
Gion is also the home of the Yasaka Shrine and its Gion Matsuri Festival, a popular festival that takes place every July at the famous Shinto shrine and other sites on the opposite banks of the Kamo River.
Reach Gion by bus from Kyoto Station within 20 minutes. You can also catch a train to Gion Shijo Station or Kawaramachi Station. Spend a day or two exploring Gion and its surrounding districts of Kiyomizudera and Higashiyama. A leisurely 30-minute walking route connects these areas via historic alleys and the Yasaka Shrine.