We set off early from the hotel on the shuttle bus to the district of Gion, Kytoto’s most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue. This area is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses).
It is here among the teahouses and private clubs that you can catch a glimpse of a geisha in full dress including white makeup. We were very fortunate to see a Geisha, who was very “clandestinely” hurrying along the sidewalk, almost as if she was hoping not to be noticed. Seeing a genuine Geisha is quite unlikely especially during the day.
We explored this fabulously maintained district for quite some time just following our noses until we accidentally ended up in the Higashiyama District. This definitely was one of my highlights in Japan.
The Higashiyama District is one of the Kyoto’s best preserved historic districts. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto, where the narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city. The streets in Higashiyama are lined by small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries. These businesses retain their traditional design, although many have been renovated through the years, and they continue to serve customers today, selling local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, pickles, crafts and other souvenirs.
While the walk through the Higashiyama District between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine is only about two kilometers long we spent most of the day in the area, visiting the various temples, shrines, shops and cafes along the way. And, I could easily return and spend longer experiencing this fabulous area.
After hours of exploring, shopping, eating, and taking photos we reached the popular Kiyomizudera Temple.
There are a couple of streets leading up to Kiyomizudera temple that are worth exploring on your way there or back. They are historical streets with paved lanes and old wooden merchant houses. These lanes are filled with small shops selling souvenirs, Kyoto handicrafts and food items.
We arrived early that morning to find it very quiet with not too many people around however, later towards lunch time the streets, shops and shrines were packed. I definitely recommend getting there early if possible.