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白川南通 (祇園白川) Gion Shirakawa Street

  • Old cities
  • Gion / Kiyomizu-dera Temple Area
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Gion / Kiyomizu-dera Temple Area
Giommachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 605-0074, Japan
  • Old cities
Opening Hours
Open every day
Date of post:2015/04/23

Time-honored street with a neat stream

  • City Walking
  • Special Recommendations

Shinbashi is located in the northern part of Gion.

Traditionally reserved wooden houses called Kyo-machiya are lined on both sides of the street. The upper windows are covered with hanging reed screens and lower windows are also placed lattice shutters to avoid being watched from outside.

The clean stream named Shirakawa (white river) is flowing on one side of the street peacefully into the Kamo river. Neatly planted cherry and willow trees are adding an indescribable atmosphere. Shinbashi is a calm old town in the middle of the big busy city.

After the Tokugawa family came in power, the number of people visiting famous shrines and temples increased. To serve refreshment to visitors, “Ocha-ya” rest houses were constructed in front of them. In due course, women working at these “Ocha-ya” began to dance and play the shamisen to entertain customers. They were forerunners of today’s Maiko and Geiko. Maiko are apprentice Geiko, and Geisha is particularly called Geiko in Kyoto. Gion is the entertainment district developed in front of Gion Shrine (which is called Yasaka shrine today) where Maiko and Geiko work as well as lead their daily life.

At the eastern end of the street, close to the bridge, there is a small shrine named Tatsumi-dai-myojin. Sometimes Maiko and Geiko are seen to pray for prosperity in business and proficiency in their performances in front of the shrine. Standing on a bridge or walking on the paved street, I feel the atmosphere of Kyoto as if it was several hundreds years ago.

In the old times, only the wealthy and influential people were allowed to have dinner in Ocha-ya in Kagai with Geiko and Maiko. “Ichigen-san okotowari” mean no visitors without invitation by patrons of each Ocha-ya or Geiko and Maiko are welcome.

But now ochaya-asobi, or have an experience of a dinner with Maiko and Geiko became accessible at selected ryokans, hotels and restaurants. This dinner consists of a combination of food, songs, dances and games. How lucky we are! But remind you, this is only once in a lifetime event.

*Reference: Trad Japan(NHK text)
Japanese Identities by Yuichiro Edagawa

  • * The information above is from the date of the review. Please be aware that some of the content may vary from the most recent information.
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