Gion (Geisha district), Kyoto

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  • Gion (Geisha district)
    by Ewingjr98
  • Gion (Geisha district)
    by Ewingjr98
  • Gion (Geisha district)
    by Ewingjr98
  • Pixiekatten's Profile Photo

    Gion Corner

    by Pixiekatten Updated Jan 17, 2007

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    Me looking at Geisha paintings in Gion Corner.

    This is the place to experience old traditional Kyoto:

    Tea Ceremony
    Ikebana (Flower Arrangement)
    Koto Music (Japanese Harp)
    Gagaku (Ancient Court Music and Dance)
    Kyogen (Ancient Comedy)
    Kyo-mai (Kyoto Dance Performed by Maiko)
    Bunraku (Ancient Puppet Drama)

    Show Time:
    Daily 19:00 & 20:00 (2 performances a day)

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    GION - BY DAY

    by Pixiekatten Written Nov 18, 2006

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    Traditional narrow alley in Gion II
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    Gion is famous as the geisha district. To experience the traditional Gion, stroll along the narrow streets lined with teahouses and restaurants. In the evenings, you might even spot a maiko - a geisha apprentice.

    Yasaka Shrine and the Minamiza kabuki theater are some of Gion's other attractions.

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    GION - BY NIGHT

    by Pixiekatten Written Nov 18, 2006

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    Yasaka shrine entrance at night.
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    Gion is famous as the geisha district. To experience the traditional Gion, stroll along the narrow streets lined with teahouses and restaurants. In the evenings, you might even spot a maiko - a geisha apprentice.

    Yasaka Shrine is lit up and makes a great visit in the evening.

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    • Historical Travel

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  • xaver's Profile Photo

    The Kyoto I loved morfe

    by xaver Written Oct 11, 2009

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    Gyon

    Gion is the city area of Kyoto known as the geisha area. In the middle age this area developed in front of the sanctuary of Yasaka in order to host the pelegrems.
    Later it became the area of geishas, today, it's really hard to see one of the few left.
    This is probably the best area of the town to see the old typical houses (machiya) and the ones of them that became tea houses (ochiya) where the geishas used to entertain the customers.

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  • bkoon's Profile Photo

    Gion

    by bkoon Updated May 23, 2004

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    This is Gion

    At Gion, you will see a lot of eateries and restaurants, from Japanese to Western to Chinese. In that area, there is a Gion Corner which is a preserved area with well-preserved traditional shophouses which are mainly high-end restaurants. More interestingly, Geishas and Maikos (apprentice Geishas) can be seen at Gion Corner.

    When I was there, I remembered I peeped through a window (and other tourists as well) and saw Geishas/Maikos performing and serving their guests. One Japanese commented that we were lucky to have seen it as it costs a lot to engage them.

    Extracted from web-link:
    Gion was first developed as a town around Gion-jinja Shrine. In Edo Period (1603-1868) many theaters for Kabuki and playhouses for Ningyo-joruri were built. This district began as a Chaya (teahouse where maiko and geiko entertain their guests) quarter for the area of Gion Uchiroku-cho became a center of the theatrical and performing arts and developed into a 'Chaya-machi'. To this day the district is blessed with beautiful historic scenery including the Shirakawa River stone pavements cherry trees and rows of refined machiya (old Kyoto-style houses) dating from the late Edo Period (1603-1868) through early Meiji Period (1867-1912).

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    Traditional Performances at Gion Corner

    by bkoon Updated May 29, 2004

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    Bunraku (Puppet) Performance

    Mini demonstrations of the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, court music, kyogen comedy, traditional Kyoto dance, and bunraku (puppet drama) are condensed into one flowing performance at Gion Corner twice nightly (7:40pm and 8:40pm) from March through November. Those pressed for time may find this the best use of a single evening (1 hour).

    Personally, I find the bunraku very interesting. The puppet was brought to life by 3 skillful puppeteers (dressed and covered in black from head to toe). Usually, 3 puppeteers will handle 1 puppet, 1 controls the head, 1 controls the hands and 1 controls the legs. It was rather mersmerising as this kind of puppet shows have minimal "language barrier".

    Just go for the experience if you do have have the luxury of staying long in Kyoto.

    Fee : 3000 Yen

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  • bkoon's Profile Photo

    Geishas and Maikos

    by bkoon Updated May 29, 2004

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    Geisha

    Geisha originates from Kyoto. Who are they? Geishas are dancers who have to go through rigourous training. Before they become professional, they are known as Maiko, i.e. apprentic Geisha.

    NOTE : Geishas/Maikos are not prostitutes.

    Geisha girls and women are trained in a number of traditional skills; Japanese ancient dance, singing, playing instruments (a three stringed instrument called shamisen is an essential instrument), flower arrangement, wearing kimono, tea ceremony, calligraphy, conversation, alcohol serving manners, and more. Geisha girls and women are talented Japanese women who patiently go through extensive training. Even after becoming a geisha girl, they keep improving their skills by taking many lessons.

    Interestingly, their kimono and make-up is very elaborate. They are powdered white on their faces and their hairdo is uniquely "folded" like leaves. Their kimonos are usually "revealing" at the back of their neck.

    When I was at the Gino Corner one evening, I was lucky to be able to peep into a traditional restaurant where Geishas/Maikos were performing. A Japanese passer-by told us that we were lucky to observe that and she also mentioned that a Maiko is usually very young and Geisha is generally older.

    It is very expensive to engage a Geisha/Maiko. However, to catch a glimpse of them, just head towards the Gion Area and you will them there.

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  • bladedragon's Profile Photo

    Gion

    by bladedragon Updated Jun 29, 2009

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    Gion (Hanami-koji)
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    Gion is Kyoto's most famous geisha district, and one of the city's most popular attractions. The district filled with ochaya (teahouses where geisha entertain), theaters, shops and restaurants.
    Kyoto's other geisha districts are Pontocho and the Kamishichiken district.
    The most popular area of Gion is along Hanami-koji street. A nice place to dine, the street is lined with preserved merchant houses which now serve as high-end restaurants.
    Many people visit Gion hoping to catch a glimpse of a geisha or geisha apprentice (referred to as geiko and maiko respectively in Kyoto), and if you are lucky you may be able to see one in the evenings on their way to or from an engagement at an ochaya teahouse.
    There's also cultural show held everyday at Gion Corner, an art center at the end of Hanami-koji. Aimed at foreign tourists, the show is a highly concentrated introduction to several traditional Japanese arts and include short performances of a tea ceremony, ikebana, bunraku, Kyogen comic plays and dances performed by real maiko. Alternatively, check out the Miyako Odori, held in April, featuring daily dance performances by maiko.

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  • Gryphon25's Profile Photo

    A trip back in time

    by Gryphon25 Written Sep 20, 2007

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    Gion is one of the most surreal places I have visited. The best time to see any Geisha and Mako is around and just after sunset. Get there a little bit early and you can watch the crowds gathering with their cameras. At stages you feel a bit like a member of the Papparatzi. There is a sighting and everybody rushes to take photographs. Walk through some of the back alleys and you can see some Okiya. Later in the evening sit on the river bank near Shi jo staion. If you look in the buildings on the otherside of the river you can actually see Geisha at work serving tea.

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    How to catch a geisha (catch a glimpse that is!)

    by Restless-in-kl Written Dec 23, 2005

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    Pretty maidens

    When you come to Gion which is known as the geisha district, you would surely want to see them in the streets. It's too expensive to catch their performance in the restaurants as a meal per person can be as much as US$200!

    With the Lonely Planet guide advising us to be in Gion at 6pm to catch geishas going to work, I was there promptly for 2 nights but no such luck. Then on our last day, we decided to go to Gion at 3pm for tea and as soon as we got down from our taxi, there they were all 3 of them!

    So, to catch a geisha or 3, go to Gion at 3pm and check out the smaller streets which hides the old streets of Gion. They are worth just catching a glimpse!

    The old streets of Gion is also very pretty and historic. Check out my travelogue for more pix.

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  • UKDaisy's Profile Photo

    In search of the elusive geisha

    by UKDaisy Updated Feb 25, 2007

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    Don't do what all the other tourists do, and that's to crowd around the entrance of the street of the teahouses to wait for a geisha to pass, it won't work that way. Walk further down, and wait beside a teahouse, look out for any cars that pull up beside a teahouse, it may be a geisha getting dropped off for work. We managed to see 2 geishas this way during the evening.

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Gion and the geiko: a walking tour

    by toonsarah Written Dec 18, 2013

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    For the most part our “Essential Honshu” tour, booked through Inside Japan, didn’t include any extras, leaving us free to explore with the group or alone. But an exception to this was the Walking Tour of Gion that had been arranged for us in Kyoto.

    Gion is one of the main Geisha districts in Kyoto, and arguably its most famous. Our tour was led by a Canadian ex-pat who had previously been married to a Geisha. He showed us some of the main sights and told us a lot about the lives of present-day maiko and geiko, as geisha are known in Kyoto.

    Let us start by debunking a common misconception – geisha are not prostitutes. Some may chose to prostitute themselves, but it is not “in the job description” and is not normal practice. No – a geisha is an entertainer of men, a skilled performer, an expert in Japanese traditions and, probably, an accomplished flirt and conversationalist. To become a geisha a girl must study for some years and will usually start as an apprentice or maiko. The term maiko means dancing girl, while geisha means “art doer”, i.e. performer. These days, girls will probably not decide to study as a geisha until their teens – the days when a girl could be apprenticed as young as three or four are long gone. In the geisha school apprentices learn to play traditional instruments such as the shamisen, to dance in the traditional way, and to perform the tea ceremony. They study literature, poetry and calligraphy. They also learn by following and observing experienced geisha, especially the “older sister” who mentors them. At each stage of her development a maiko will wear the appropriate dress, hairstyle and make-up, and an expert could tell at a glance how long she had been working from this.

    We saw several geiko and maiko on our walk around Gion but they move very quickly and, understandably, don’t choose to spend their valuable time posing for photos for tourists! I was lucky to be able to grab this photo of a maiko as she dived into a nearby doorway. To see more of my geisha photos check out my Geisha tip on my Japan page.

    We also saw the geisha school where all geisha go to study music and dance (regardless of age and how long they have been working), and a number of ochaya (tea-houses) where the geisha entertain. We passed several spots that featured in "Memoirs of a Geisha", although our guide told us that the film was almost completely shot on a lot in California as the Kyoto authorities weren't keen to have it made here. One of the most picturesque of these was around the Shirakawa Canal (photo three) and in particular by the bridge, Tatsumi Bashi, and the nearby Tatsumi Daimyojin Shrine (photo four) where traditionally geiko and maiko come to pray for help in improving their skills. It was dusk by the time we arrived here and the lights were coming on in the houses overlooking the canal, giving it a special atmosphere – a lovely place to end our walk.

    Although we didn’t have time to go inside while on this tour, we also walked through the grounds of the Kenninji Temple, the subject of my next tip.

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  • ClareyD's Profile Photo

    The search for Geishas

    by ClareyD Written Apr 2, 2005

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    Maiko

    Whilst we were unsuccessful in locating any Geishas in early evening in Gion, we were quite surprised when we went down Pontocho alley (a small alleyway lined with teahouses and traditional restaurants)around 6-7pm due to the amount of Geisha/Maiko we saw moving from one teahouse to another within the space of about 10-15 mins however the difficult thing is taking a picture. The only warning sign you get is the clip clop of the wooden clogs so you need to listen very carefully, they move very fast and so quickly the photo opportunity has gone. To get a picture you need to be both patient and lucky, quite crazily it almost feels like you are a member of the paparazzi.

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  • ChuckG's Profile Photo

    Gion district and stone paved roads

    by ChuckG Updated Dec 16, 2005

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    Stone paved roads

    The Gion district is across the river from the main downtown. It's a beautiful well-preserved area which has kept the same atmosphere for a long time. There are numerous temples in that small area and the many stoned paved roads lined up with tiny inns, restaurants and shops.

    Although it's supposed to be the Geisha district, I haven't seen many. This aspect is overrated.

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  • trvlrtom's Profile Photo

    Geisha spotting

    by trvlrtom Written Oct 23, 2008

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    When you walk in Gion quite likely you will encounter geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha ). Modern Kyoto geisha often still live in traditional geisha houses called okiya. A geisha's appearance evolves throughout her career, from heavily made up maiko, to the more subtle look of an older, more established geisha. The colorful kimonos and obi are fascinating, along with the extravagant makeup. What goes into making and choosing and putting on the attire and makeup is complex, and described at length in web sites devoted to that.

    Depending on where they are walking in public, they can draw a lot of attention. It may seem a little weird, with so many people trying to take photos, but hopefully no offense is taken by the subjects. At the Nishijin Textile Center you can see models showing different types of dress in frequent shows. The web link below has information on it.

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