Keihanshin (京阪神) Episode 15: Gion (祇園)

Gion (祇園) is a popular district in Kyoto, where most of the people learned about it from the novel and its movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”. The area is where the Geisha culture originated and the area is regarded as Japanese historical preservation area. Among the district, Hanamikoji (花見小路) is one of the well preserved and popular one.

There are many restaurant along the street, but most of them only opening for business after evening time.

It’s pretty much quiet during the afternoon, but at night time, it’s will be a different atmosphere.

After evening time, you might be lucky enough to spot a Geisha or Maiko (舞子, apprentice Geisha). But this also posed a problem, because there are a lot of foreign visitors and amateur photographers are following closely to them until the Geisha and Maiko can hardly conduct their daily routines. The situation became so bad until the Kyoto authorities made a declaration of “Do not follow maiko in the street!” (should be ‘on the street’, though).

I myself did witnessed such a situation during my visit. While a Maiko was appearing on the street, the visitors are getting overwhelming by her appearance and keep taking photograph of her. The Maiko sensed the situation and started to hurried up to the direction of one of the restaurant. While most people are already stop following, two ladies still not giving up and following closely and pressing the camera shutter repeatedly. Under the thick make up, I can still see the Maiko was apparently very bad mood. The saga continued until the maiko managed to get into the restaurant. The two ladies are happily walked away and scrutinizing the photo they took from the digital camera.

If you intend to visit Gion, make it during the evening time or even later. And kindly show a little respect to them.

After that, while I was heading to the subway, I saw this restaurant along the Shijotori street.

A Japanese doll is accompanying you at the table. Of course, they are not real. I wondered what it turns out if the restaurant suddenly black out. One word, eerie..

Look closely on the Ema (繪馬) hanging on the wall, you will be astonished. This is actually a sex-themed restaurant!

Speaking about food, there is only one food to choose. So there you go. It costs 630 Yen. Serving is big and full of filling inside the omelet.

P/S: While the novel “Memoir of the Geisha” draw the attention of the Geisha culture all over the world, however, it was widely opposed by the Japanese. First, the author Arthur Golden breach the agreement between Mineko Iwasaki (岩崎峰子) and him for not disclosing her name. Secondly, Golden depicted the Geisha as prostitute in order to satisfy the westerner. Third, many details, particularly appeared in the movie version, are full of serious inaccuracy about the Geisha culture.

As a result, Mineko Iwasaki not only sued Golden, but also come out with her own version of memoir (by the way the Golden’s novel, is a novel, there was no Sayuri such real person, and it is not the real story of Mineko-san). I highly recommend you to read the Mineko Iwasaki’s “Geisha of Gion”. Who is the most suitable candidate to write about the story about Geisha, than a Geisha herself? Oh, by the way, as mentioned in the book, they don’t call themselves Geisha (芸者), instead, they used “Geiko” (芸子).


How to get there: Suggest visit Yasaka Shrine first, then walk along Shijio Dori (四条通), you will see a signboard showing “Hanamikoji”.


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