Kyoto November 2014 Part 3 – Gion, Yasaka Shrine

I’m on a roll! Can you tell that I’m still very much inspired by Kyoto until now? This place is all sorts of magical, and I’m so happy I’m finally able to share its beauty to everyone (thanks to EnjoyJapanPH). While this is not my first time to go to Kyoto or even write about it, I feel like I only really managed to immerse myself in the city when I traveled alone last November. Traveling alone is a unique experience that everyone should try at least once in their lives!

Following my last entry on Shijo Kawaramachi, I made my way to Gion on my first night in Kyoto. From Kyoto Station, I took a bus to Shijo Kawaramachi, and walked along Kawaramachi Street to get to Gion. The reason why I didn’t go straight to Gion was because I had dinner at a CoCo Curry in Kawaramachi. Can’t take photos with an empty stomach!

Anyhow, Gion has garnered a lot of attention from Arthur Golden’s best-selling novel-turned-movie, Memoirs of a Geisha. But before the novel came out, it has always been a very busy place. This district was especially built to address the needs of travelers, and visitors to Yasaka Shrine.

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How do you know you’re already in Gion?

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It’s when you cross the famous Shijo bridge! The current bridge was created in 1942, but the first bridge at this location go way back in the 12th century.

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Once you cross the bridge, the first thing that catch your attention is this fancy-looking traditional structure. This is called Minamiza Kabuki Theater. They say that if you want to watch kabuki, this is the best place in Japan to do so!

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Found various stores selling traditional EVERYTHING all over Gion. Wish I had time to go through each one, but I arrived so late that most of them were already closing!

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Why Kyoto continues to be awesome – some of the stores in Gion have been around since the 17th century. Kyoto cotton cloth company Eirakuya was established in 1615.

One of the most popular brands in Gion is Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu, which has been around since 1905. Their tote bags and backpacks have become a destinations in themselves.

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Heart-shaped sweets! Too kawaii!

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The cutest little coinpurses.

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Animal-shaped cookies. Omiyage (souvenirs) need not be boring-looking!

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Restaurant Issen Yoshoku! This place is a local legend.

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Kitschy interiors, but somehow it works.

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Their famous Kyoto-style okonomiyaki! <3 Try it out if you’re in Gion!

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Stopped by Yojiya Cafe because it was recommended to me by a Japanese friend. The Yojiya Cafe in Ginkakuji is the most popular one (because of the view and interiors), but the Gion branch isn’t bad at all!

Yojiya is a popular Kyoto brand that sells quality skincare products made from natural ingredients. A lot of Japanese girls splurge on Yojiya’s iconic oil-blotting papers!

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I had a green tea cappuccino (Kyoto’s specialty is matcha, fyi) and a gateau chocolat.

Apparently, each Yojiya cafe has special items that you can’t find their other cafes. Way to motivate people to visit all their branches!

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A common sight in Kyoto. Sometimes, they’re locals. Sometimes, they’re tourists. Still eye candy, either way!

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The most famous street in Gion is called Hanami-koji. Here, there are a lot of machiya (traditional wooden merchant houses) that have been preserved through the years. Other common structures here are ochaya (teahouses) where geisha and maiko entertain guests, and ryokan (inns) that usually serve traditional multi-course Kaiseki meals. I’ve never stayed in a ryokan before, but I really want to!

Based on my previous geisha sightings, the best time to be at Gion would be just before 6 in the evening, when geishas are on their way to work, or really late at night when they’re on their way home.

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I went at a rather in-between time – around 8:30-9pm, and most of the geisha and maiko were still indoors, attending to their evening engagements. Oh well! I’m still happy I managed to snap this photo way back in 2009.

Recently, there have been an increase of tourists (and sometimes locals) with creepy, paparazzi tendencies lurking around Gion, hoping to snap photos of geisha and maiko. If ever you find yourself in Gion, do remember that they are human beings too, and not just some mascots that you can stalk and follow whenever you want.

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The streets of Gion are still a sight to behold, with or without any geisha or maiko. Not a lot of photographers were around during this in-between time, so I took advantage!

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Seriously, how is this place even real? Going to Gion is like traveling back in time. How I wish I could go back in time and visit Gion again during daytime! I’m sure it’s just as surreal.

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The view right outside Hanami-koji Street. The building on the right is a giant Yojiya store.

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Buwis-buhay shot of Shijo Street’s night lights. A lot of people were on their way home around this time!

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Including this kimono-clad mom and her kid!

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The end of Shijo Street is Yasaka Shrine, where this photo was taken.

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The main hall.

Yasaka Shrine (or Yasaka Jinja/Gion Jinja) is a popular Shinto shrine that dates back during the early Heian period (794 to 1185). Lots of people come here every New Year, and every July when they hold the Gion Festival.

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One of the deities enshrined in Yasaka Jinja is Susanoo-no-mikoto, the Shinto god of the sea and storms.

His name rang a bell because of Kamigami no Asobi, lol. I only know the bishounen version, haha

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That’s the shrine’s dance stage on the right.

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The lanterns are lit every night, and the names of the donors (usually a local business) are written on each one.

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Wandered around late at night. Only in Japan (and in a shrine) do I ever dare to do so, lol.

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O-mikuji or fortunes! Offer a 5 yen coin, and hope to pick a good prediction from a box filled with different fortunes.

If you picked a bad one, you need to fold the paper up and attach it to these metal wires with the other bad fortunes. It has something to do with the Japanese word for “pine tree” *and* “wait” – “matsu”. They say that by tying your bad luck, it will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer.

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Ema, on the other hand, are these small wooden plaques where you can write your prayers and wishes!

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Last few photos before I went back to my hotel and called it a night. My last 3 travel posts all happened on the same day as my flight. I swear I have an infinite source of energy when traveling. But only when traveling, lol.

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Someone on Instagram pointed out that these two looked like Sakurai Sho and Kitagawa Keiko. I KNOW, RIGHT?

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Starbucks x Kyoto. I saw the whole range of Starbucks Japan’s mugs and loved all of them! The Hokkaido one is adorable, but Kyoto is a close second.

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Closing time!

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Kamo River and Gion at night. The weather was perfect, and still tolerable enough to hang out by the river with friends.

The juicy Kyoto touristy posts are up next! I’ve already drafted the first one – so excited to share!

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