Blanketed by Night in Gion

May 14, 2018

By Takumi Abe



When you walk in the Gion district of Kyoto, you have time-traveled back into the olden days of Japan. You will see traditional style house alsos and people wearing kimono. You can enjoy seeing not only such scenery, but you can enjoy Japanese foods such as matcha green tea, Japanese sake or sukiyaki. A river along one street in Gion is lined with stones and many willows, giving you a feeling of exoticism. After the sun goes down, you will be fascinated by the new mood of Gion. It has a relaxed atmosphere. laughter emerges from the old-style houses. I decided to record this special night mood through photographs.


The History of Gion

Gion was created in the late 1600s and prospered as a town that had developed near the gate of Yasaka Shrine. At this time, many beautiful women stood in front of the stores to attract customers. In the Meji period, from 1868-1912, the Gion area was expanded. Furthermore, Many famous Japanese writers loved Gion in this period. Eventually, Gion changed into the amusement and nightlife district it is now. Now, the northern area of Gion sparkles with bright neon lights. In the southern part of Gion, there is soft lighting and it is very quiet.


Gion Night Scenery

  • Yasaka Shrine


Yasaka Shrine

This shrine is the symbol of Gion, which extends out west from its base. This area prospered from people who came to worship at this shrine. Now, the gate is lit up every night.


  • Northern Gion

Northern Gion

In northern Gion, there are bars, snack bars and nightclubs. Many people go there to enjoy drinking and the nightlife. On Friday night, lots of taxis are coming and going.


  • Gion-shinbashi


Gion shinbashi

In northern Gion, glittering neon signs illuminate the streets. However, if you continue to walk north out the the more lively streets, there is an old Japanese-style district that has a quiet atmosphere. This area’s streets are covered with stones. You can enjoy the atmosphere and sophisticated Japanese restaurants.


  • Shijo Boulevard



The Shijo Boulevard is the main busy street in Kyoto and in Gion. There are many people here for shopping, commuting, dining and drinking, going back home or just out walking. Shopping is the biggest reason that people come to Shijo, because there are so many different and attractive stores there.


  • Snowy Downtown


Snowy Downtown

When January arrives, it brings snow to Kyoto. The citiscape is changed by snow. People might think that temples or shrines covered with snow are beautiful, but the collaboration between snow and Gion is even more magical. You can see that old houses and streets are dressed in new snow.


  • Hanami-koji


Hanami koji

Hanami-koji is the main street of southern Gion. Red Japanese lanterns have images of dumplings printed on them. Gion was started with dumpling and green tea shops. In Japan, drinking Japanese tea while eating a dumpling is one of our favorite customs.


  • Rainy Gion


Raining in Gion

After a rain in Gion, the wet streets reflect the lights brilliantly. Those lights are white, red or brown. The pitter-patter of rain and the sound of footsteps fill the air.


  • Kennin-ji Temple


Kennin-ji temple

If you walk further south on Hanami-koji Street, you will see the traditional gate of Kennin-ji temple, Kyoto’s first Zen temple. You can experience the culture of Zen (禅) here and see beautiful fusuma and byobu paitnings and a Japanese garden.


  • The traditional pagoda



Yasaka-no-to is a three-story pagoda between Gion and Kiyomizu Temple. The presence of this pagoda is very photogenic. This is one of Kyoto’s most famous places, so many people come here and see it. At night, this area is so silent that you can hear your own footsteps and breathing.


  • Sakura



Maruyama park stetches out in back of Yasaka Shrine. This park is famous for its cherry blossoms and there is one big cherry tree at its center. Regardless of age or sex, many people are attracted by this famous tree.


  • Under the trees


Enjoy Hanami

Many people enjoy viewing cherry blossoms with good food and alcohol. When people are under the trees, they feel delight. This is one way to have fun at night in Gion..


The Atmosphere of Gion


Gion is famous as a traditional Japanese entertainment district. However, the old structures coexist with modern bars and concrete buildings. So this area looks a little bit messy, but in fact, the long history of Gion remains intact. The area that has a long history is attracting many more people these days and they enjoy the nighttime with alcohol. It is good that people can enjoy and go a little crazy even in front of the holy shrine. When night comes, most people go to sleep at their hotel or guesthouse. If you have time or are not able to sleep, I recommend you go to Gion at night. Gion then has a bustling and buzzing face in addition to quiet and calm face along the river. You can feel this original atmosphere. Gion is both loud and quiet.

Die Hanamikôji-Straße

von  Chihiro Kato und Enami Sekiya
Die Hanamikôji-Straße liegt südlich von Gion, einem Stadtviertel von Kyôto, in dessen Zentrum der Yasaka-Schrein liegt.
In Gion gibt es ein Kabuki-Theater namens „Minamiza“ und berühmte Cafés wie das „Tsujiri“ oder „Gion-Koishi“.
Auch das „Gion-Fest“ im Juli ist sehr beliebt. Man kann in Gion traditionelle Kyôtoer Küche essen und das Yûzen-Stofffärben ausprobieren.

Die Hanamikoji Straße

Die Hanamikoji Straße

Die Hanamikôji-Straße verläuft zwischen der Sanjô-Straße und dem Kenninji-Tempel und ist etwa 1.4 km lang.

Es ist eine Straße mit ganz typischem Kyôtoer Flair. Der Teil der Straße, der nördlich von der Shijô-Straße liegt, besitzt eine andere Atmosphäre als der südliche Teil. Im Norden gibt es viele Gebäude, zum Beispiel Pubs, Bars und Bürogebäude.
Im Süden gibt es Teehäuser und Restaurants. Hier kann man alte Häuserreihen sehen, obwohl die Geschichte der Straße nicht so weit in die Vergangenheit zurückreicht.

Es ist sehr entspannend, die Hanamikôji-Straße zu Fuß entlang zu laufen. Des Öfteren trifft man dabei auf „Maikos“, also Kabuki-Schauspielerinnen, die sich noch in der Ausbildung befinden. Nicht jeder kann eine Maiko werden, sondern nur Mädchen unter 20 Jahren. Mittags kann man auch Maikos sehen, jedoch sind viele dieser Maikos keine wirklichen Geisha-Schülerinnen, sondern nur junge Mädchen im Maiko-Kostüm, welche den Besuch in Gion für Schüler aus anderen Teilen Japans, die nach Kyôto auf Klassenfahrt kommen, zu einem Erlebnis machen sollen. Wenn man echte Maikos sehen möchte, sollte man am Abend in die Hanamikôji-Straße kommen.
Das „Naruya“ ist ein berühmtes Teehaus. Hier kann man „Warabimochi“ essen, eine japanische Süßigkeit, die aus Wasser, Zucker und japanischem Mochi-Reiskuchen besteht. „Warabimochi“ verderben schnell, und der Geschmack verliert sich bald nach der Zubereitung. Deshalb ist es am besten, frische Warabimochi sofort gekühlt zu verzehren. Man isst sie mit „Kuromitsu-Sirup“ oder bestreut mit „Kinako“, einem gezuckerten Pulver aus Sojabohnen. Bei Japanern ist diese Süßigkeit sehr beliebt.