Geishas at Gion!
Admittedly, when initially planning for our Kyoto trip, Gion District first came to mind because of geikos, or what we commonly know as geishas. Well, aren’t we all guilty? Of course, we all blame that to Hollywood, thanks to the huge success of the Memoirs. Intrigued and just plain curious about this famous and highly elegant district of Gion, hubby and I paraded every corner with high hopes (and desperation) of meeting a real geiko or maiko along our way. Apparently, we were not alone. We have the entire flock of tourists unanimously looking for one. We tourists were just being, oh well, tourists.
The main street of Gion is Hanami-koji, world famous for its Kyoto style houses which are also very established restaurants, tea houses and hotels. We had dinner in one of these restaurants and boy, it was NOT at all cheap.
SHINBASHI DORI (新橋通)
The Gion Shinbashi area began as a traditional tea house and entertainment district but is now at present filled with shops that specialize in high quality art and antiques. It is a beautiful cobble-stoned Shinbashi Street, which runs along the cherry tree-lined Shirakawa river.
Issen Yoshoku is both the name of the dish and the name of the restaurant in one corner of Gion District. The dish is a wheat flour based batter with chopped scallions, egg and thinly sliced pork, cooked and folded and served with sauce. It is quite famous especially among the locals because it is said that the owner of the restaurant, Tatsuo Kinoshita, who started it about 30 years ago, wanted to serve the original Western food in Japan which during the Taisho Period (early 1900′s) would cost only about 1 US cent. Also, the symbol of this restaurant is very interesting.
The only remaining Kabuki Theatre in Kyoto out of the seven officially licensed is the Minami-za. This theatre was built in 1929 and was registered as a Japanese Tangible Cultural Property in 1996.
Another famous must-visit place in Kyoto is the Pontocho. It is a very narrow alley that runs from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori and just west of the Kamo River. It has probably the most dining options in all of Kyoto which requires a fat wallet, otherwise it is simply a must-see for its traditional architecture.
KAMO RIVER 鴨川 and SHIJO OHASHI 日本語
The Kamo River flows through the city of Kyoto from north to south. It looks really clean and certainly most romantic at night especially with the beautifully-lit restaurants on the river side and when viewed over at Shijo Ohashi.
We were not very lucky to see a geisha or a maiko. However, we sure were a witness to the captivating beauty and high sophistication of Gion – Japan’s prime geisha district and Kyōto’s most famous (and best preserved) traditional neighborhood. There was an option to dress up like one (some shops offer rental and make up services) but nah, I will leave that adventure until next time. Maybe.