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gionino's pizza, giong ca de doi
Coordinates: 35°00′13″N 135°46′30″E / 35003496°N 135775051°E / 35003496; 135775051

Hanamikoji Street

Gion 祇園, ぎおんnote 1 is a district of Kyoto, Japan, originally developed in the Middle Ages, in front of Yasaka Shrine Gion Shrine The district was built to accommodate the needs of travelers and visitors to the shrine It eventually evolved to become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in all of Japan The term Gion is related to Jetavana

The geisha in Kyoto do not refer to themselves as geisha; instead, they use the local term geiko While the term geisha means "artist" or "person of the arts", the more direct term geiko means essentially "a woman of art"


  • 1 Divisions
  • 2 Entertainment
    • 21 Teahouses
    • 22 Other
  • 3 Annual events
  • 4 In popular culture
  • 5 See also
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 External links


Shirakawa Canal in the Gion district, showing the rear of some ochaya

This neighborhood in Kyoto has two hanamachi geiko communities There are five hanamachi in Kyoto: Gion Kobu 祇園甲部 and Gion Higashi 祇園東, which split many years ago; Kobu is larger, occupying most of the district, while Higashi is smaller and occupies the northeast corner, centered on its rehearsal hall Despite the considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion in the last one hundred years, it is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment

A typical kaiseki restaurant in Gion

Part of this district has been declared a national historical preservation district Recently, the City of Kyoto completed a project to restore the streets of Gion, which included such plans as moving all overhead utilities underground as part of the ongoing effort to preserve the original beauty of Gion



Gion remains dotted with old-style Japanese houses called machiya, which roughly translated means "townhouse", some of which are ochaya or "tea houses" These are traditional establishments where the patrons of Gion—from the samurai of old to modern-day businessmen—have been entertained by geiko in an exclusive manner for centuries

Inside the ochaya is a private and closed world where the evening's entertainment may include cocktails, conversation, and games as well as traditional Japanese music, singing and dancing To this day, geiko and maiko geisha in training in full regalia can still be seen in the evenings as they move about through the streets of Gion to and from their various engagements at the ochaya They dance and sing and they entertain for everyone


There are also many modern entertainment establishments in Gion – restaurants of all types, bars, clubs, pachinko, off-track betting, and a very large number of tourist-oriented establishments, particularly along Shijō Street; the region is both a major tourist hub, and a popular nightlife spot for locals Streets vary dramatically in character, and quiet traditional streets abut modern ones Among the traditional streets, Hanami Lane 花見小路, Hanami-Kōji, "flower-viewing lane" and environs is a major preserved street It ranges from Shijō Street at the north end, anchored by the famous Ichiriki Tei, and running south to the major temple of Kennin-ji

The stretch of the Shirakawa River before it enters the Kamo river is also a popular preserved area It is lined on the south side with traditional establishments which directly abut the river, and some are accessed by crossing bridges from the north side The north side was previously also lined with buildings, but these were torn down in World War II as a fire-prevention measure, and the section is now primarily a pedestrian street, lined with cherry blossoms These are lit up in the evening in the spring, and the area is active year-round

Annual eventsedit

Miyako Odori

The geiko and maiko of Gion perform annual public dances, as do those of all five geisha districts in Kyoto The oldest of these date to the Kyoto exhibition of 1872 The more popular of these is the Miyako Odori, literally "Dances of the Old Capital" sometimes instead referred to as "Cherry Blossom Dances", staged by the geisha of Gion Kobu, which dates to 1872 The dances run from April 1 through April 30 each year during the height of the cherry blossom sakura season Spectators from Japan and worldwide attend the events, which range from "cheap" seats on tatami mats on the floor, to reserved seats with a small tea ceremony beforehand Gion Higashi holds a similar dance in early November, around autumn leaves, known as Gion Odori; this is more recent and has fewer performances

In popular cultureedit

  • Gion is the setting of much of Arthur Golden's novel Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Gion Kobu was also where Mineko Iwasaki lived and conducted business as a geiko, as mentioned in her autobiography Geisha of Gion
  • Gion is the setting of several films by Kenji Mizoguchi, including:
    • 1936 Sisters of the Gion 祇園の姉妹 Gion no kyōdai
    • 1953 A Geisha AKA Gion Music Festival 祇園囃子 Gion bayashi

See alsoedit

  • Kyoto hanamachi
  • Miyagawachō, other district located just south of Gion
  • Pontochō, other district on west side of Kamo river
  • Kamishichiken, oldest district in Kyoto


  1. ^ In traditional kana spelling spelt ぎをん The first kanji 祇 is properly 示 + 氏, but is often written as ネ + 氏 instead, and on computers depends on the font used Occasionally 祗 示 + 氐 is seen, but this is a mistake these are distinct characters

External linksedit

  • "Kyoto Travel: Gion" Retrieved 2009-07-05 
  • "Gion - Kyoto :: Japan Visitor" Retrieved 2009-07-05 
  • "Kyoto’s Gion district – Walk the streets with Geisha and Maiko" Retrieved 2017-03-22 
  • Miyako Odori

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