Kyoto – Shinbashi Dori and Gion, Higashiyama District

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After a Zen experience at Shoren-in Temple, we returned to the reality of this bustling and lively city at Higashi-oji Dori, the main road at Higashiyama. We stopped at a lovely desert shop to refuel. We walked along a quieter Shinbashi Dori. Within minutes, we seemed to a million miles away from the frantic cityscape as we crossed the Tatsumi Bridge near a row of dark orange hued railings. A small shrine, in the north, with a vermillion gate temple, marked the beginning of this street. This is Shinbash Minami-dōri, a lovely cobbled street densely planted with cherry and weeping willow trees along a canal, “Shirikawa”, White River. This is a very picturesque street, particularly the south bank, with trees overhanging over the river and connected by narrow bridges. Suddenly, we seem to have entered into another world. On either side of the street, rustic double storey merchant houses, mostly converted into high end restaurants, tea houses, “ochaya” and probably a few homesteads. Behind wooden lattice windows, slatted doors and bamboo screens “oisudare”, high paying guests are probably entertained by Geishas’ in the evening. Flowing “noren”, cloths hung above the entrances, identified each establishment. During the cherry blossom season, this street is packed with people. This area is the most scenic and quieter part of Gion. We loved it as it was a reprieve from the heated fumes and bustling traffic.

untitled-183 untitled-181 untitled-180 untitled-178Close to the Tatsumi Bridge, a lovely and traditionally dressed couple, who had just married, were having their pictures taken against the leafy and atmospheric street. The bride wore a beautiful and colourful kimono. Both the couple had his and hers umbrella. With a little smile and “sumimasen”, they allowed me to photograph them. I should have done the same with my opportunity when I encountered the “geiko” and “maiko” in Arashiyama! Through a narrow bridge, we continued our walk towards the heart of old Kyōto in Gion, Hanami- kōji, Flower Town.

Gion, Higashiyama District

untitled-185This is the most popular area in Gion, Hanami-kōji, located between the busy Shijō- dōri and Kenninji Temple. The main street and the side alleys were lined with rustic double storey “Machiya”, town houses which had mainly been converted into restaurants, shops and tea houses. Red lanterns hung at the entrances all along the street. It was lunch time and we wandered on the street looking at the prices quoted at the entrances. This is an exclusive and therefore expensive area for meals. In the evenings’, behind screens and doors, high paying clients wine and dine with the company of the magnificent geishas’ and “maikos”, a “geiko” apprentice. Possibly served the Kyōto style Kaiseki Ryori (elegant Japanese cuisine). This is one of the licensed geisha areas, “hanamachi”. Tourist will never be entertained by a geisha unless they have an introduction and an invitation to a tea house, “ochaya”. Fortunately, there are other avenues to witness Geisha perform. Today, this paved street was crowded the people and traffic. Watching kimono clad women walking daintily along the street was a delightful sight in the late afternoon heat. This is a good place to watch lavishly dressed and beautifully poised geisha make their way to an evening engagement. We headed towards Yasaka Shrine where we finally indulged in some “ramen”, noodles.

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