Lonely Planet review for Gion District
Gion is the famous entertainment and geisha quarter on the eastern bank of the Kamo-gawa. While Gion’s true origins were in teahouses catering to weary visitors to Yasaka-jinja, by the mid-18th century the area was Kyoto’s largest pleasure district. Despite the looming modern architecture, congested traffic and contemporary nightlife establishments that have cut a swathe through its historical beauty, there are still some places left in Gion for an enjoyable walk. It looks quite drab by day, but comes alive with people and lights in the evening. Hanami-kōji runs north to south and bisects Shijō-dōri. The southern section is lined with 17th-century traditional restaurants and teahouses, many of which are exclusive establishments for geisha entertainment. At the south end you reach Gion Corner and Gion Kōbu Kaburen-jō Theatre. If you walk from Shijō-dōri along the northern section of Hanami-kōji, you will reach Shinbashi-dōri and its traditional restaurants. A bit further north are Shinmonzen-dōri and Furumonzen-dōri, running east to west. Wander in either direction along these streets, which are packed with old houses, art galleries and shops specialising in antiques – but don’t expect flea-market prices here. For more historic buildings in a beautiful waterside setting, wander down Shirakawa Minami-dōri, which is roughly parallel with, and one block south of, the western section of Shinmonzen-dōri.