The Gion District, with wooden lattice windows and 'maiko' dancers. Lively Kawara-machi, with well-established stores and trendy fashion shops.
Gion is one of the main districts of Kyoto, and for many people it is Gion that comes to mind when they think of the city. The area developed as a town for Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and is now considered the most prestigious downtown area in Japan. Wooden lattice windows made of thin wooden beams in a grid pattern create a lace effect that is in perfect harmony with the elegant 'maiko' (apprentice geisha) dancers, who can often be seen taking a stroll through the area. The streets boast of stores selling traditional Kyoto crafts, such as 'kanzashi' (ornamental hairpins), incense and kimono accessories. The area is also home to Chinese and Italian restaurants built inside traditional Japanese buildings. The much-loved Gion is a lively district that preserves tradition, while incorporating new trends and fashions.
Held each summer, the Gion-matsuri Festival attracts more than a million visitors. The festival is famous for its procession of magnificent festival floats on which musicians play Gion-bayashi, festival music featuring Japanese flutes, bells and drums.
Across the Kamo-gawa River is Kawara-machi, the largest downtown area in Kyoto. Various stores line the streets, from businesses that maintain centuries-old traditions, to top fashion shops. There are also department stores, boutiques, movie theaters and several large bookstores in the area.
From Umeda (Osaka) :
[Rail] 42 min from Umeda (Osaka) to Kawaramachi Station (Kyoto) by Hankyu Line (limited-stop express).
From Osaka :
[Rail] 28 min to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Line (new rapid service).
From Tokyo :
[Rail] 2h 15 min to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line 'Nozomi,' or 2h 45 min by 'Hikari.' 10 min from Kyoto Station to Shijo-Kawara-machi by bus, and a 5-min walk from Shijo-Kawara-machi to Gion.