May 3, 2015

Cherry Blossoms @ Gion, Kyoto

Gion is a historical area in Kyoto that IMHO, serves as one of the most iconic representative of Japanese culture.


“ Gion (祇園?, ぎおん[note 1]) is a district of Kyoto, Japan, originally developed in the Middle Ages, in front of Yasaka Shrine. The district was built to accommodate the needs of travellers and visitors to the shrine. It eventually evolved to become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in all of Japan.”

Source: Wikipedia




Gion is famous for it’s large amount of traditional wooden houses (Machiya) which so embodies the image of traditional Japanese architecture. Gion has evolved into a highly prosperous district that is filled with restaurants, shops and Teahouses. Most notably, is the Hanami-Koiji street where there is the highest concentration of Ochaya (teahouses) and where the Geishas receives and entertain guests.


“ The most popular area of Gion is Hanami-koji Street from Shijo Avenue to Kenninji Temple. A nice (and expensive) place to dine, the street and its side alleys are lined with preserved machiya houses many of which now function as restaurants, serving Kyoto style kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine) and other types of local and international meals.

Interspersed among the restaurants are a number of ochaya (teahouses), the most exclusive and expensive of Kyoto's dining establishments, where guests are entertained by maiko and geiko.”






The Chugen-ji Temple that is along the main streets of Shijo-Dori .  This is an amazing little temple that is right smacked in the middle of a bustling street filled with night life.









One of the many little wooden tunnels  that brings you from front door to backyard





Kyoto Minimiza Theatre



I've been to Kyoto in 2013 when I was invited to be one of CoFesta’s ambassador. I extended my trip and went over to Kansai for an additional 6 days and for most of my days there, I stayed in the awesome Gion (read about my review of my Gion, Kyoto’s Hostel review here).





Then,  I had thought Gion was astoundingly beautiful and mesmerising.  Hanami-Koji street captivated my imagination so much as I felt like every step was me stepping into an old memory of Japan.









But during the Sakura season everything and everywhere becomes SO MUCH PRETTIER!


After my Tokyo Spring 2014 trip ,I had started to think maybe the Sakuras  Photos in Travel Catalogue have been heavily photo shopped. I mean I saw beautiful Sakuras on that trip but they didn't look like the travel pictures. Beautiful yes but not so fluffy, compact and full.


But this trip I was so amazed by the beauty of it. Such fluffy white and pink beauties that can only be created by God. Oh man! I can see why the Japanese are so obsessed with it because I am too! In fact so into them that my itinerary centres around admiring them only (don't worry, i made time for anime and shopping too lol ).


Let me share with you the crazy amount of sakura photos i took in Gion.





I found the Gion Kaburenjo Theatre this time. Not sure how I could’ve missed such a big establishment the last time I was here ^_^;;;; It was a pity that I was a day earlier and missed the Miyako Odori festival. The Miyako Odori festival performance period usually happens in the month of April.


“ The Miyako Odori is a traditional Spring Dance Festival in the heart of Kyoto’s historic entertainment district, Gion. Beginning in 1872 the Kaburenjo Theatre has been the setting for this vibrant cultural gem and this year our proud legacy will continue to captivate audiences from Japan and around the world.   “

source: Miyako-Odori












And here was where I decided to try levitating shots because there’s a nice sakura tree and nice background and not a lot of people. So I guess why not?




First try. Not too bad, at least I got the motion down but man, that face needs some massive Photoshop (which I didn’t do here) . Okay never mind, put my hoodie on and try again.




If my right leg had been a little more bent it would have been perfect. But alas, here it just looks like I’m stepping on the stone ridge around the tree oTL.  Another time!




Same problem -_- The problem with trying to do your own levitating shots is that you cannot place yourself into the right place accurately. Here, the stone ridge and my right leg just spoils the whole ‘levitating’ theme as I once again look like I’m stepping on it even though I’m not.


40 over shots later….




This hilarious shot of me head-butting the tree is the best of the lot -__-




This would have been awesome but nooooooooooooooo my feet was cut off! darn!!





I gave up -_-. Nah, here is the pretty sakura tree without me spoiling the view.







Every turn of a corner in Gion just felt like a gem found as the sight just looked so beautiful. All my Animanga FEELS!!!!










Quaint little corners of Gion that is more off the beaten path.





Randomly found a Gaming shop hahaa. The pink poster art is Maison Ikkoku!





Everywhere just looks pretty!!





By the way,  look out for this shop. It’s on the main street of Shijo-Dori, just around the corner to the train station. They sell freshly handmade mochi products such as Dango and Sakura Mochi and they are all affordable and INCREDIBLY YUMMY! I’ve visited Japan for 5 times but barely ate Dangos despite them being featured in countless Anime and Dramas. I mean, it’s made of glutinous rice and water right? How different can it be from our Chinese Tang Yuan (glutinous rice ball)? I tried one of the Dangos from the Convenience stall and thought even lesser of the dessert.






But THIS ONE WAS DIFFERENT! It was incredible! It was soft, chewy and with just the right amount of flavour! The big grilled dango probably cost around 120+ yen . The 3 coloured dango features dangos of different flavours and the green one even has bits of the green tea leaves grinded in. It tasted fabulous and only cost 76 yen; probably the cheapest in Kyoto.





The Shirakwa Area had numerous Cherry Blossom trees planted along the little canal.









Couples taking their wedding photograph!







I even got to see a Geisha up close! You can tell she was probably a full fledged Geisha because she not only was her Kimono highly detailed and ornamental, she also had an assistant behind her and a bouncer walking in front of her to open up the path for her. In fact she had her own little entourage, she that lady in kimono in the background? I believe she was with her too.  Talk about privilege xD





And then I found this amazing little street that has 2 magnificent rows of Cherry Blossoms in full bloom!







Aren’t they gorgeous? I wish my photography skill was good enough to fully capture their beauty but really, my photos don’t do them justice at all! However please attempt to imagine how wonderful it is to walk down a street and be shaded by grand Cherry blossom trees like this!





Panorama of the little road with my phone. Sadly the cherry blossoms just doesn’t turn up on pictures.


Time for a selfie with a timer !




At the last few seconds of countdown, a lady (probably a tourist too haha) decided she would have her friend take a photo of her with the sakuras in front of me. This happens often enough for me to be able to shake it off easily however I am very curious how her photograph turned out. I wonder how her friend will attempt to crop me out from her picture since I am so awkwardly behind her.





Not perfect but this will do!







Another lovely thing about Gion is the abundant feeling of festivity even though there is no festival hahha. I also love how there is so many young people trotting around in traditional garments.





Sweet couple both in traditional kimonos . I took the chance to take some portrait shots with my 50mm.







Don’t they all look lovely ^_^?


I can’t express enough how much I love Gion, the sights, the architecture and the vibe just lands me straight into old time Japan. It feels like Kenshin will step out from the corner any moment! It so easy to get lost in time, not just from the maze like Machiya lanes (which I honestly DID get lost inside. Seriously once you decide to take a few adventurous and uncalculated turns into the small alleys, it’s so hard to find your way back) but also from the details you see. Every nook and cranny is a photo opportunity for a Photo and Anime enthusiast like me.





I highly recommend going to Gion early and spending half a day there just appreciating the traditional wooden houses, the different culture and the quiet excitement it brings. Sakura season is also the best time to visit Gion (or anywhere in Japan actually) as most of the trees lining the area are Sakura trees!

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