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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.