When notification of a budget flight from Australia to Japan arrived in our inbox, we spontaneously decided it was time to become acquainted with traditional Japan, aka Kyoto. I had this dream of staying in or near the Gion Geisha District and maybe doing a walking Geisha tour.
What You Will Find in This Post
Book Accommodation in Advance for peak seasons.
But first we needed to find accommodation and finding a block of two weeks in Kyoto is very difficult in Autumn – Kyoto’s second busiest time of year after Cherry Blossom Season. It is recommended to book 6 months in advance for peak seasons in Kyoto and we were booking just 3 weeks in advance. Luckily I enjoy a challenge.
I hit jackpot when I came across an Airbnb house in Southern Higashiyama. There was only one reference as it was a brand new listing. Encouragingly the review was good and after contacting the owner we were able to secure a two week booking. It’s interesting to note that on the Airbnb site there were no blocks of 2 weeks, but after contacting the owner he arranged it.
With the amount paid to Airbnb in full we breathed a sigh of relief, crossed our fingers and booked the Jetstar flights. As the departure date grew closer our choice was vindicated by more positive reviews appearing for the house.
We had a wonderful two weeks in the Shared House and my REVIEW is now up on the Airbnb site.
Take a Walk through Gion the Geisha District of Kyoto
The Geisha District is a close western neighbour of Southern Higashiyama – so close that while staying in Southern Higashiyama, we walked through it most days. Shijo Dori is a modern street full of department stores, tea and ice-cream shops and those lovely itty bitty collectibles that Japan does so well.
More interestingly though, Gion is home to charming traditional streets where you might be incredibly lucky and spot a Geisha.
The Difference between Geisha, Maiko or Geiko?
Well, Geiko are Geisha from Kyoto.
But what or who are Maiko?
Take a Geisha Tour
Taking a night walking tour is an atmospheric way to explore Gion’s streets. We walked around by ourselves and loved the traditional feel, but it would have been great to have someone who knew the area intimately with us. Someone who could explain the Maiko Geisha difference, Geisha history and even the Japanese Geisha wig. When we take a tour I find it’s the little insights that make the big difference.
Next time we are in Kyoto I am going to take this tour.
Best Place to Stay in Kyoto
Why Southern Higashiyama District is the best area to stay in Kyoto.
Multiple quality temples, preserved streets and the vibrant Yasaka Shrine.
They are right there in Southern Higashiyama, saving on transport costs and loads of travel time.
Northern Higashiyama has more beautiful temples and the Philosophers Path.
Take the 2 km canal side path through Northern Higashiyama and visit the Silver Pagoda.
It’s the place to be for both Japanese and foreigners.
There is a real buzz going on, especially on weekends when kimono clad ladies and to a lesser extent men, are a common and beautiful sight.
- Buses (100 and 206) connect frequently with Kyoto Train Station.
- A quick walk to Gion will connect you to the Keihan Railway at Gion-Shijo Station beside the Kamo River (a quick way of visiting Fushima Inari Torii Gate Shrine)
- And Kawaramachi Station for the Hankyu line. The Hankyu line is the starting point for a day spent in the temple viewing at Ninna-ji, Ryoan-ji and Kinkaku-ji temples via the Randen Line.
These can be arranged with the Rickshaw men who congregate on Southern Higashiyama corners 5,000-7,000 yen.
Do the Lonely Planet Japan walks.
We did both the Southern and Northern Higashiyama walks. Both are excellent and easily achievable when staying in Southern Hig
Visit Pottery shops.
Walk along the northern side of Gojo Dori one of the best places to shop in Kyoto for pottery. They are little family run shops and my luggage was a little heavier on the way home.
In the interests of objectivity I looked long and hard to find the bad points of staying in Southern Higashiyama but all I could come up with were some steep streets to challenge the calf muscles and the slightly expensive (but gorgeous) souvenir shops to challenge the purse.
Chris Rowthorn, the author of Lonely Planet Kyoto gives a rundown of the Kyoto Districts HERE.
Visit TRAVEL PHOTO DISCOVERY, and
REFLECTIONS ENROUTE if you love to travel.