Gion

KYOTO Gion & Higashiyama Discover the beating heart of traditional Japan in Gion and Higashiyama

Discover the beating heart of traditional Japan in Gion and Higashiyama

While Higashiyama specifically refers to the hills that run along Kyoto's eastern edge, this is a large area that spans a number of UNESCO World Heritage temples and the most pristine of Kyoto's old townscapes. The area is also home to several of the city's kagai, or geisha districts.

Don't Miss

  • Spotting an elusive geisha, called geiko in Kyoto
  • Taking a leisurely morning stroll down the Philosopher's Path
  • Scouring the quaint shops in the Gojo area for locally-made ceramics and other crafts
  • Observing the city from the incredible wooden stage at Kiyomizu-dera Temple

How to Get There

Gion and Higashiyama cover a wide area that is now the heart and soul of Kyoto . It is easily accessed by public transportation. Within the district, most sites are a leisurely walk away.

From Kyoto Station take the no. 5, 7 or 100 bus for Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji Temple) and the northern end of the Philosopher's Path. This journey takes about 40 minutes. Take the no. 100 and 206 buses for Kiyomizu-michi, the nearest stop to Kiyomizu-dera Temple . This journey takes about 20 minutes.

Gion-Shijo and Kiyomizu-Gojo stations on the Keihan subway line offer easy access to Shijo and Gojo streets. You can reach the geisha districts, temples and ceramics areas within 15 minutes by walking eastwards along these streets.

Kiyomizu-dera

The Silver Pavilion—the center of Higashiyama culture

Kyoto experienced a cultural renaissance under the 15th century shogun Yoshimasa, who built the exquisite Ginkakuji Temple, nicknamed the Silver Pavilion (though never actually covered in silver) and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here the traditional arts, from tea to ikebana flower arranging, flourished under his patronage. The temple garden, which was completed after Yoshimasa's death in 1490, is famous for its moss and autumn colors, though it is gorgeous the year round.

Ginkaku-ji, The Silver Pavillion

Enjoy a contemplative stroll along the Philosopher's Path

Running along the foot of the Eastern Hills is a cherry tree-lined canal and trail, known today as the Philosopher's Path . There are some nice little craft shops and cafes to relax at along the way. While usually tranquil, at the peak of the cherry blossoms season this route can be very crowded, so it is best to start early during that time of year.

Summer greenery along the Philosopher's Path

Follow the Philosopher's Path southbound for about 30 minutes from Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji Temple) , and you will pass numerous temples including Eikando , a prime autumn foliage-viewing spot, before reaching the massive Nanzenji Temple complex. This was once the country's most important temple, and you may well recognize the enormous Sanmon Gate from the Hollywood blockbuster "Lost in Translation." The sub temple of Tenju-an is highly recommended. The Muroan gardens are very close and a nice spot to sit and relax.

Nanzenji Temple

Discover the old and new of Gion

Further south, towards Shijo Street, you begin to enter geisha territory. Here you can find the ochaya, wooden teahouses, that serve as the residences and reception venues for geisha, though some have been converted into high-end restaurants and bars that are open to the public.

Shinbashi Street is especially picturesque. Furumonzen and Shinmonzen streets close by are home to a cluster of antique shops.

Shijo Street itself is a lively and modern entertainment area, with abundant opportunities to shop for souvenirs and eat your fill of green tea-flavored sweets. Strolling through the Yasaka-jinja Shrine grounds on the far eastern end, you can continue on through the pleasant Maruyama Park to Chionin and Shorenin temples.

Kodaiji Temple is also easily accessible from here and holds interesting night-time exhibitions and light-up events through the year.

If you wish to continue your pursuit of geisha, follow Hanamikoji Street southbound to Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater. Their nightly show, Gion Corner, presents maiko (geisha-in-training) performances as well as introductions to several other Japanese traditional arts.

A stone's throw away is Kenninji Temple, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.

Shop for local crafts and ceramics in the Kiyomizu area

The Kiyomizu area is heaven for ceramics lovers and is host to numerous pottery shops. Ceramicists from all over Japan congregate on Gojo Street every August to peddle their wares.

Kawai Kanjiro Memorial House, the former residence of a mingei potter, is a hidden gem in the area.

Kiyomizudera Temple is a must-see, though prepare to walk uphill and brave crowds to reach it. The roof of the main hall is under renovations until 2020 but is still accessible.

Gion and Higashiyama is a district filled with many of the sites and sights that are the very reason that people flock to Kyoto. You should expect to spend a whole day here, at least, or risk feeling rushed. Two days and an evening are recommended.

Did this information help you?

Near Gion & Higashiyama

Gion Culture
Kyoto Gion & Higashiyama
Gion Nanba
Kyoto Gion Nanba Kaiseki (Traditional Multi-Course Meal)
GYUZEN
Kyoto Gyuzen Shabu Shabu
The aglio garden
Kyoto The Aglio Garden Steak
Kotobukiya
Kyoto Kotobukiya Creative
Nakayama
Kyoto Nakayama Kappou (Fine Dining at a Counter)
Hanatoro Eat & Drink
Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatoro Kyoto-fu
Yasaka Jinjya History
Kyoto Yasaka-Jinja Shrine Kyoto-fu
Fujiwara
Kyoto Fujiwara Kappou (Fine Dining at a Counter)
Ajifukushima
Kyoto Ajifukushima Kyoto Cuisine
Nakamurarou
Kyoto Nakamurarou Kyoto Cuisine
Gion Umenoi Tosembo
Kyoto Gion Umenoi Tosembo Eel / Unagi (Freshwater Eel)
GIONROIRO
Kyoto Gionroiro French Cuisine
Yagenbori Hanamikojiten
Kyoto Yagenbori Hanamikojiten Kyoto Cuisine
Iwamoto
Kyoto Iwamoto Kyoto Cuisine
Shigure
Kyoto Shigure Kaiseki (Traditional Multi-Course Meal)
Matayoshi
Kyoto Matayoshi Kappou (Fine Dining at a Counter)
Imobou Hiranoyahonke Hiranoyahonke
Kyoto Imobou Hiranoyahonke Hiranoyahonke Banquet Dinners
Izuu
Kyoto Izuu Sushi
Ifuji
Kyoto Ifuji Nabe (Japanese Style Hot Pot)
Hanasato Gionten
Kyoto Hanasato Gionten Steak
Saiki
Kyoto Saiki Kaiseki (Traditional Multi-Course Meal)
Abbesses Abesu
Kyoto Abbesses Abesu French Cuisine
Maruyama Koen Nature
Kyoto Maruyama Park (Kyoto) Kyoto-fu
Kennin-ji History
Kyoto Kenninji Temple Kyoto-fu
Gion History
Kyoto Gion Kyoto-fu
Kodai-ji History
Kyoto Kodaiji Temple Kyoto-fu
gion & higashiyama History
Kyoto Chionin Temple Kyoto-fu
Pontocho Eat & Drink
Kyoto Pontocho Kyoto-fu
Shogunzuka Seiryuden Temple History
Kyoto Shogunzuka Seiryuden Temple Kyoto-fu
Nishiki Market Eat & Drink
Kyoto Nishiki Market Kyoto-fu
gion & higashiyama History
Kyoto Kiyomizudera Temple Kyoto-fu
Murin-an Attraction
Kyoto Murinan Garden Kyoto-fu
Konchi-in Temple History
Kyoto Kochiin Temple Kyoto-fu
Heian-jingu Shrine History
Kyoto Heian-Jingu Shrine Kyoto-fu
Culture
Kyoto Kyoto Handicraft Center Kyoto-fu
Nanzen-ji History
Kyoto Nanzenji Temple Kyoto-fu
Kamo River Nature
Kyoto Kamo River Kyoto-fu