My Memoirs of a Geisha in Gion District Kyoto, Japan

11:00:00 AM Pinoy Boy Journals 13 Comments

A Trip to Kyoto wouldn't be complete without visiting Gion District, hoping to catch a glimpse of Geishas and Geikos/Maikos. Luckily, I did. Let me share with you my story how chasing a Geisha changed my life forever.

It was a free night for me, still in Kyoto. I met up with the brothers from Sweden and decided to tag along with their trip. I was suppose to go to a Ryokan that night but decided to forgo the plan since i haven't visited Gion yet. 

Having bought the Kyoto Bus Pass, i was hoping i could ride it for free. Alas, a more practical and convenient way is to ride the train, two stops away from my hostel to Gion.

Where is Gion?
Gion district is located in the city center around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine and the Kamo River, and is filled with ochaya (teahouses where geisha entertain), theaters, shops and restaurants.

It was an excellent time to roam around Gion. Tourists flock to this area just before dusk hoping to snap a photo op with the beauties. We arrived around quarter to 20:00 so tourists were already leaving. Walking around the district was a treat in itself. Miniature houses where Geishas perform abound. Set dinner and cool entertainment where in place. I found myself wandering around the night along quiet alleys and trying peep through open windows of the restaurants. With no money, i decided to catch them before/after performance. After about 30 minutes, there she was.


I saw her walking pass by me.
Walking and reservedly chit-chatting with a wealthy businessman. She was walking slowly, effortlessly chic and stylish in her elegant kimono and face all made up. She was in her 30's so I'm pretty sure she is a Geisha. I wanted to take a photo of her. I wanted to remember her. I wanted to show everyone who she is. But a part of me convinced me to simply watch her. She's not Zhang Ziyi from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. She's not a clown, not an entertainer. So, while brothers were excitedly taking photos. I stood next to a post, watch her pass by me. She didn't look at me as what usually happen in the movies. She was settled, arms closed to the businessman. She had the quiet confidence in her, the charm of a lady that could lure everyone. She hit me right in the spot. She isn't like anybody else. She is a Geisha!

It was a surreal moment. I never knew in this lifetime, that i would actually be able to catch a Geisha in person. At first, i wanted to chase one, but in the end, i found one and decided to let her go. A Geisha is just like anyone of us - a person, a human being with emotions. It's her job. It's her passion. I've chatted with a local one time, and he mentioned how nowadays the young Japanese girls would not train to become a Geisha. But this is history, this is the way of life. I hope the tradition never ends. Long Live the Geishas!

I walked passed by the quiet streets and off to the highway, neon red lit lanterns parade the streets. Souvenir selling shops sell local goodies, restaurants offering overpriced restaurants, and the quiet truth lingers. Gion amazed me in so many ways. It's a different Japan as i remembered i said. 
Geishas are aplenty in Kyoto. You can't see them anywhere, you have to find them. They are like cherry blossoms during autumn, quite impossible to find, and will forever be just a dream!

How to Get to Gion
Gion can be reached by bus from Kyoto Station in about 20 minutes. Take number 100 and 206 and get off at Gion bus stop. The closest train stations are Gion Shijo Station on the Keihan Line and Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Line.

Additional graphics and text sourced from here.


Ed said...

There are some shots we'd rather leave uncaptured. But very nice way of describing them, jerik! makes me want to meet one too!

Anonymous said...

Wow you went to Kyoto! I really envy you hehe. I'm glad you saw a real geisha. I wanna see a Geisha too after watching the Memoirs of a Geisha.

Chyng said...

wow, new template? ang ganda.. mas standout na yung photos and texts.

wow youve met a real geisha! parang sa movies ko lang to nakita!

@mylovelylife88 yes! It was so surreal. up until now di ako makapaniwala that i actually did saw a real life geisha. but as blogged, i don't know but it didn't feel right to take a photo. Seeing them walk along the streets was an experience already. Just saw your blog post on the asian cruise. will definitely read it! it's a dream to at least once, feel rich on board a cruise ship! he he :)

@Chyng thanks so much! yes, ako rin di makapaniwala na totoo pala sila! he he mukha akong ewan parang bigla akong naging sablay at natorpe! he he

C A R L A said...

wow! meeting a geisha. that must have been quite an experience.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pinoy Boy :) I love Gion! When I went there we stayed in a guesthouse in the Gion district and it's really so surreal when you see a geisha. I saw two on the way inside a teahouse in Gion on my first night in Kyoto and it was just unbelievable :)

@Carla it's unbelievable! it's a different feeling when you see them up close. i can never forget that moment!

@slouchingsomewhere i know right? good job staying in gion! i would highly recommend staying there just because excitement definitely feels the air!

I hope to see Geisha too in real-life... they are fascinating that many people are drawn to them...

@Ian yes, i thank God that i was able to see them up close. just a little story, about early this month my Japanese friend visited me here in Manila. He asked me when can i travel to Japan. Back then, absolutely impossible. But i was really hoping to see Japan. Few months later, i got to see the land of the rising sun. as they say, everything is possible!

Nilcha said...

yea, Long Live the Geishas!!! :)

@Nilcha, they're part of history of Japan. I hope it continues on!