Sunday 22 July 2018

Kyoto revisited - Gion

One of the most iconic (and thus one of the most crowded) places in Kyoto is Gion.  This district kind of sums up Kyoto.  Traditional, old, beautiful, and historic.  It is one of the busiest places in Kyoto and therefore one of the most frustrating places........unless you go there at night......

For me, there is something magical about old traditional places in Japan at night time.  Without the hustle and bustle of daytime, you get a more realistic vibe of what the places would have been like when the traditional was the norm.  It was for this reason that myself and friend Tetsuya caught the train to Gion at about 9:30 at night.  We got off at Kawaramachi station and headed straight for Hanamikoji dori, the heartbeat of Gion.  Right on the first corner is an exclusive restaurant, Ichiriki-tei.  For those of you who know the story of the 47 Ronin (very different to the Hollywood movie, you can find my post about the story here) the leader of the 47 Ronin, Oishi, used to frequent this place as he and the others were plotting their revenge.

As I said before, you get a special feeling walking along streets like these at night.

And, like I said, the hoards of tourists are nowhere to be found!!

As with any place in Japan, often the side streets are more interesting than the main streets.

This tiny alleyway was lined with restaurants and from the outside we could hear people talking, laughing and enjoying themselves in these exclusive restaurants.

Just after taking the photo above a geisha walked out of a restaurant and hurried along down the street!  My first geisha!!  About 20m behind us was a couple of other tourists who took it upon themselves to spoil her night.  As she walked past they pulled out their camera and started snapping away like a pair of paparazzi.  Please, if you are ever graced with the good fortune of seeing a geisha, please, please don't do this.  She is not a tourist attraction, she is just doing her job.  If you do want to take a photo, please ask her if it is okay, but remember, you are imposing on her.  Sorry, rant over.

We walked passed Yasaka shrine

and back down to Pontocho (to be featured in a separate post).  We stopped at a little shop selling takoyaki (balls of batter with octopus pieces and other bits and pieces in them) and wagyu beef skewers.  We ordered a couple of skewers and I stood back to take this photo.

As I looked up, Tetsuya was looking at me and said "You just missed it!".  "What did I miss" I asked.  "Another geisha just walked past!"...... I slapped myself in the forehead for missing it.  We walked off down Pontocho with our wagyu skewers.  As we walked along Tetsuya said "The geisha, she walked into that restaurant".  A second or so after he said that, she walked back out again!!  Now Pontocho is a pretty narrow alley and Tetsuya and I walking along cover about 90% of the street!  We both jumped to the sides of Pontocho and said "すみません" (excuse me).  She looked at us both with a smile on her face and said "Sorry".  Now that little encounter was so much more memorable than a photo!

That finished the night on a high note!

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