Gion, Kyoto- Geisha district

Gion, Kyoto, is famously know as the geisha district. We spent two glorious evenings wandering around this area on the lookout for geisha. This is really one of the only area’s left in Japan to see working geisha, and even then, it is still not very common. Geisha are hostesses who study and perfect Japanese performing arts, including; music, dance, tea ceremonies etc. (They are not prostitutes, as some commonly think.)

This is the large bridge that crosses the Kamo River into the heart of Gion.

There were many restaurants overlooking the river.

This patio looked particularly awesome! I would’ve loved to eat there, but not very family friendly prices, as you  can imagine.

Pontocho Alley, was a long, narrow street full of restaurants and bars that backed up to the river. This street had such a great atmosphere for exploring. I loved all of the hanging lanterns. Many geisha are said to entertain here, so we were hopeful to catch a glimpse, but no dice.

The entrance to the district.

I absolutely loved that there were so many ladies wearing yukata in this area. Yukata are a lightweight summertime kimono, always in beautifully vibrant colors. I never tire of seeing them!

Yes, even yukata for men, but in more subdued colors.

We passed this famous statue on our walk. There was some very creative posing being done here. Haha.

I had read that the best place to spot geisha (or more commonly, maiko, an apprentice geisha) was in front of this historic building that still serves today as a geisha training school and teahouse. We waited and waited with no luck, then finally decided to do some more wandering. Ella was determined to find geisha!

I absolutely loved the old Japanese architecture on the streets here, and rows upon rows of teahouses.

A typical teahouse.

Then all of a sudden, we began to see a crowd forming outside of one particular teahouse. We joined the group to get a closer look. Each time they opened the curtain we could see two gorgeous geisha at the entrance. (Notice Ella peeking right through the curtains, she was small enough to get really close without anyone really noticing. She stood their watching for quite sometime, and the geisha even waved to her.)

Unfortunately, this was the best picture I got. You can just see her beyond the curtain, but it still counts as a sighting. Hooray! We watched for a while, before moving on.

At the end of the main street, sat Gion’s most important shrine, Yasaka.

We decided to walk back to our hotel, along the river. We had such a lovely walk, this was one of the highlights of the entire trip for me.

Taking a break.

Such a nice evening for a stroll, with an ideal temperature, and a wonderful breeze from the river.

The perfect end to a lovely evening. 

Alas…I just had to post the pictures that my friend, Merri, took when she visited Gion, a month ago. For the record, I am very jealous.

This one should be framed!

They saw SIX geisha total that day! Sigh. Some people have all the luck. We’ll be back!


  1. belann
    September 14, 2014 / 10:56 pm

    So interesting. It must have been like stepping back in time somewhat. What marvelous experiences you are having.

  2. Laura
    September 15, 2014 / 2:07 am

    This is really cool. Hope those two gals understand what an opportunity this is.

  3. Amara
    September 16, 2014 / 5:23 am

    I'm so glad you explained what geisha are in plain speech. I've read whole novels etc.and still didn't get it. We just don't have an equivalent in our culture. Stepford wives? Not really. Wish the final pictures were yours for your sake, but happy to see them no matter what. If I ever go to Japan, this area will be on my must visit list.

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