This neighborhood is considered as the birthplace of Gion, which is indispensable for cultural history. During the Edo period, this place becomes the stage for the popular culture of the general public, such as Joruri and Kabuki. At present, this area is designated as ‘preservation districts for important traditional buildings’ and the old traditions are still well preserved. The unique Machiya style houses line up on both sides of the streets like the old days, making it a special atmosphere.
1.Tatsumi bridge (巽橋)
Tatsumi bridge on Shirakawa River is one of the famous bridges in the Gion district because of a scene from the movie ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. This area is popular for Geisha and keeps the retro stone pavements streets, traditional houses along the river. It is a great place for taking pictures both day and night, especially in spring the cherry blossoms make the place more beautiful.
This small shrine is located near the Tatsumi bridge, make this area more picturesque. It is also called ‘Inari of Gion’ and worshipped by not only local people living around this area but also Maiko and Geiko. This shrine was originally built as protection of the southeast direction of the city. The benefits of this shrine are business prosperity, artistic accomplishments, and fulfillment of the wish.
The small monument along the Shirakawa river is called ‘Kanikakuni-hi’. The song engraved on the monument is written by Isamu Yoshii who is a famous poet and playwright. He loved Gion so much and wrote this song dedicated to Gion: ‘Gion is such a lovely place, even when I sleep, I can hear the sound of the river, sounds like water is flowing under my pillow, make me emotional’. The famous tea house used to be built on this spot, he and other authors often visited there. Every November 8th, the ‘Kanikakuni Festival’ is held by the Gion Kobu tea house Association.
4.Gion Shinbashi (祇園白川)
Located north of Shijo Dori Street, east of Yamato Oji Dori Street, Gion Shinbashi is a historic preservation area for traditional buildings and the streets that represent Kyoto such as the flow of Shirakawa canal, lined with eaves and a willow-filled cobblestone path where Geiko and Maiko walk gracefully. This area is visited by many tourists throughout the year.
5. Hard Rock Cafe Kyoto Gion
in 2019 Hard Rock Cafe transformed a traditional machiya house in Gion Shirakawa and turned it into a dining bar. The place has fluent English-speaking staff and both Western and Japanese style rooms. I visited the venue twice and both times there were more foreigners than Japanese.
6. Gion Komori Sweets Cafe
This place is right in the middle of Gion Shirakawa and most travelers don’t realize that it is a traditional sweet shop with a small garden as the venue looks like a prestigious geisha house from outside. You can get matcha sweets and traditional drink set for as low as 1400 jpy ($12) and enjoy the lovely atmosphere in the heart of Gion Shirakawa.
7. Shiraume Ryokan Kaiseki Meal
This is a famous Edo-period teahouse that you had to wait for months to reserve before the pandemic. The small bridge that connects the Shirakawa street and the ryokan looks like a scene you find in postcards. The ryokan itself is a bit pricey but you may get lucky with the dinner if it is not the peak season. The kaiseki meal you’ll have at this place for sure would be your most memorable experience in Kyoto.
Tip: There is a 7-11 convenience store on the corner of Shinbashi Street and Yamatooji Street open 24 hours. The convenience store has a free resting room on the second floor where you can sit and enjoy the wonderful view of the creek from wide windows. Location of the 7-11 store
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