Kyoto’s Gion District Charms As Always

IMG_20150628_010759Kyoto has the most intact traditional Japanese buildings in Japan. Kyoto was the royal imperial city before being moved to Tokyo. Kyoto survived the bombings of WWII. Modern day Japan’s culture originated in Nara/Kyoto. Many of the old traditional buildings have been leveled to create modern multilevel housing but so much still exists of the old.

We are staying seven nights in a very comfortable (western bed) Airbnb apartment in the Gion district. Gion is centrally located to the subway/train systems for easy access to the different Kyoto districts for temple/shrine day visits. The most famous street in Gion is Hanami-koji and its side alleys. Here are all of the famous tea houses/restaurants who employee geishas to entertain their guests. The geishas are some of the most beautiful women in Japan. They entertain the gentlemen guests with conversation and traditional tea services. As a tourist you will never experience the services of the geishas and if you had a chance, it would set you back 300-500 USD. The geishas work free lance and are on call to whatever teahouse needs them at a given time. So, Hanami-koji is overrun by tourists (90% Asian) trying to see a geisha scurrying along the street between gigs. Hanami-koji is three blocks of over priced tourist restaurants exhibiting signs and lit menus. The side alleys are addresses only for the rich Japanese who know about them. These are the establishments who employee the geishas.

We are nosey tourists too. After two nights, we ran across a new restaurant off Hanami-koji called Rigoletto Smoke Grill and Bar. Just wrote their 13th TripAdvisor review. Hiding behind the traditional facade of the street is the most contemporary tapas restaurant imaginable inside, with a price point less than half of its neighbors. We have had dinner there for the last 2 nights and will be back for the next three.

Getting back to Geishas, we have now seen 6 in four nights. Our prior 3 trips to Kyoto, we had seen none. Three more nights to go. Who knows what the count will be.

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