Kyoto’s old world district

by Arlene Rafiq
Gion 1

The God of rain was obviously cooperative as I walk to explore the nostalgic path this traditional village evoked. Gion is Kyoto’s famous old world and entertainment district. It is filled with traditional wooden houses called machiya. While these types of homes can be seen all over Japan, it’s mostly typical in the historical district of Gion in Kyoto. Looking around Gion, you can say that it has maintained and saved its architectural treasures.


Gion creates nostalgia while leisurely strolling the historic town. I even felt happy spirits that seem to be present in the air. Perhaps I am just feeling the good energy of the people of the past centuries having a good time especially when night falls and all the lanterns are lit.

KimonosTake a pictureWhile the evenings have an air of romance, there are also many interesting things to see during the day. I can just sit in a corner and observe which took me to a world of silence. To Japanese culture, silence is golden. My eyes wandered around and I see quite a number of vending machines with all kinds of beverages and snacks. Women and men in kimonos not really sure if they are locals until I saw them entering a kimono rental shop and coming out in their normal clothes. Walked up the hilly road and rows and rows of shops on both sides of the road selling all kinds of things Japanese, from fans, knick-knacks to kimonos. Lots of food stalls are also in vibrant business. I tried the famous rice crackers called senbei and they were addictive. From nori covered senbei to soya sauce with sesame seeds… all flavours were yummy up to the last bite. To my wonderment, an antique looking Starbucks coffee shop suddenly became part of the scenario… that was unexpected!

Road view

Traversing the cobblestone road and going up and down the hill, a beautiful pagoda can be seen from a distance. Although it would take me another two kilometre walk from where I stand, it would be a sin not to see it. The walk was not bad at all… the scenery was awesome. The roads are clean and guests and locals are disciplined by not throwing their rubbish anywhere. Everywhere you look trees are healthy and blossoming with flowers… but I felt bad seeing an old man pulling a trishaw to pick up tourists to enjoy the tour to the old district.  Sunset

On my last day of the tour, albeit fatigued, we climbed a much steeper road to go to another temple. I had to rest several times as I was catching my breath, the walk was not easy. We entered a beautiful teahouse overlooking a fantastic panoramic view of Kyoto and sipping freshly brewed coffee on a hot day overlooking one of Gion’s beautiful vistas.

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