A Walk Through the Ancient World of Geisha at Kyoto’s Gion

The history of Gion (祇園) back dated to the Middle Ages, where it has been a district built t accommodate the needs of ttravelersand visitors visiting Yasaka Shrine. Slowly, the area gained its fame and become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha (芸者)districts in Japan.

While geisha refers to “artist” or “person of the arts” in Japan, Gion geisha uses a local term called geiko (芸子), meaing “a child of the arts” or “a woman of art”. Though there are considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion, it is still famous for the preservation for the traditional architecture and entertainment. Partial of the district is being preserved under national historical buildings and there are ongoing restoration on the streets og Gion, including shifting of all overhead utilities underground to preserve the original beauty of Gion.

The Gion district is being divided into two communities, Gion Kobu (祇園甲部) and Gion Higashi (祇園東). The Kobu occupies a larger area while Higashi is smaller and located northeast corner of the district, amidst of the rehearsal hall.


During my trip to Kyoto, I visited Gion Corner (ギオンコナー) in Yasaka Hall (弥栄会館), showcased on the display was some of the ornaments and accessories used by geisha during in the past. The history of hair pin could back date to Prehistoric Japan about 12,000 BC in Jomon Time(縄文時代), which later the use of hair pin flourished in Nara Times after different cultural hair pin is being introduced from China.

As era cultural started to change, the complexity of the hair pin also started to evolve. The hair pin are being designed and wore by the women based on different seasons and occasions. The main material used for creation of the hair pin in the past was either silver, tin or copper and decorated beautifully with precious metals, jade and corals at times.


Life of a Geisha

I could not explain much of their lifes, but if you really wanted to see how stringent and their routines practise to become a Geisha, you could watch the movie directed by Rob Marshall, Memoirs Of A Geisha, starring Zhang Ziyi. The movie has won numerous awards and nominations for six Academy Awards.

We was intending to catch a performance at Yasaka Hall, but due to the timing, my friend had to rush her last train back to Tokyo to meet up with my another friend, we had to give it a go and went for a short coffee break instead.

Updated on 20 Jan 2014

Enjoying Kyoto’s Famous Tofu, Yuba and Unagi With My Singaporean Friend


My Yuba lunch set

Beside known as a ancient city for Geisha, Kyoto is also famous for three food – Tofu (豆腐), Yuba (ゆば) and Unagi (鰻). Though it was not my first time to Kyoto (I have went there before during my school excursion trip), I did not really tried on the local delicacies As my friend was visiting Kyoto for the first time, I thought it would be good to bring her for those, but we only managed to eat Yuba and Unagi as the Tofu are quite pricey, around 1,500 yen (S$ 22.50).

Some might wonder why Kyoto is famous for Tofu and Yuba. One of the reasons is because Kyoto is place for Buddhism devotees where there are thousands of temples within the city, while another reason is because Tofu and Yuba requires lots of water during the making process and quality of the water affects the taste of the end product. Kyoto’s water is famous for its purity and thus helps to make the Tofu and Yuba tastier.