Kyoto Travel: 7 Places to Visit in the Gion Area

Gion is an area where you can enjoy a typical Kyoto townscape. The cobblestone walkways, such as Hanamikoji lined with ochaya (tea shops) and the Gion Shirakawa River with its beautiful willows along the river, are all filled with the Kyoto atmosphere. There are also many famous shrines and temples here and there that you should visit at least once. These are the staples of Kyoto sightseeing, but no matter how many times you visit, you will always be impressed by the beauty of the city.

In this issue, we will introduce seven classic spots in the Gion area that you must visit.


Yasaka-jinja Shrine (八坂神社)

Yasaka-jinja Shrine Kyoto Sightseeing

Yasaka Shrine, also known as “Gion-san,” is the symbol of Gion and beloved by the people of Kyoto. From the west tower gate facing Shijo Dori, you can see the lively Gion shopping district.

In addition to the magnificent main hall, it is recommended to visit several other shrines on the grounds of the shrine, including Utsukushigozensha Shrine, which is said to be blessed with beauty, Okuninushisha Shrine, which enshrines Okuninushinokami, the dity of Izumo Taisha, famous for marriage, and ebisusya Shrine, which is blessed with prosperity for business.

Gion Matsuri Festival

This shrine is also the site of the Gion Matsuri Festival, one of the three major festivals in Japan, which is a large-scale, month-long festival held annually in July.

Maruyama Park (円山公園)

Maruyama Park (円山公園)

Maruyama Park is a park rich in nature that stretches behind Yasaka Shrine.

weeping cherry blossoms

It is also famous as one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Kyoto, and is lit up during the cherry blossom viewing season, making it popular as “Gion no Yozakura” (cherry blossoms at night in Gion). The most famous cherry tree is the large weeping cherry tree known as “Gion Shidare”. It has been about 87 years since the second generation of the tree was planted after the death of the previous 200-plus year old tree.


Maruyama Park is also beautiful in the fall, and the reflections of the autumn leaves on Hyotan Pond in the park and the stone steps leading to the park are worth seeing. The park is within walking distance of Yasaka-jinja Shrine, Chion-in Temple, and Kodai-ji Temple, making it a perfect place to rest your feet between visits to temples and shrines.

Hanami-koji Street (花見小路通)

Hanami-koji Street (花見小路通)

Hanami-koji Street is lined with cobblestone pavement and Kyo-machiya (Kyoto-style townhouses). It is said to be the main street of Gion, and now electric wires are buried underground to maintain the Kyoto-like scenery.

Since there are many Ochaya around Hanami-koji Street, you may see Geiko and Maiko on their way to the Ochaya. Also, in front of Kennin-ji Temple, there is the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo theater where you can watch Geiko and Maiko perform the “Miyako Odori” dance performance.

At night

There are also some nice streets off Hanamikoji Dori with fashionable cafes, so it is recommended to take a stroll around. However, there are many private roads, so please be respectful of other visitors.

Gion Kobu Kaburenjo theater (祇園甲部歌舞練場)

Exterior view of Gion Kobu Kaburenjo theater

Gion Kobu Kaburenjo theater is a theater dedicated to “Miyako Odori” and is located along Hanami-koji Street.

Miyako Odori (from the performance in 2024)

The Miyako Odori dance performance is a festival in Kyoto’s Hanamachi district, where the saying “Ichigen (first-time visitors) are not allowed.” The public is invited to watch the magnificent dances of about 50 geiko and maiko, who are usually unavailable to the public. The performance is limited to one month only, from April 1 to 30 every year, and is one of the most popular springtime events in Kyoto. Reservations can be made online, so those who wish to see the performance should be sure to make a reservation before visiting.

Gion Shirakawa (祇園白川)

Tatsumi Bridge during cherry blossom season

The area around the bridge called Tatsumi Bridge, which is located north of Shijo Street, is called Gion Shirakawa. This area flourished as the gate town of Yasaka Shrine from the Heian period (794-1185), and has remained an entertainment district with many teahouses where people play with maiko and geiko until the present day, and has even been used as the setting for TV dramas.

At night

The ochaya lining both sides of the stone-paved street were built after the Great Fire of Kyoto in 1865, and many of them are beautiful to look at. During the cherry blossom and foliage viewing periods, the Shirakawa Riverfront is illuminated, giving the area a different Kyoto-like atmosphere than during the daytime.

The Inari shrine called Tatsumi Daimyojin in this area is deeply believed in by the maiko and geiko of Gion and local merchants who wish to prosper in their business.

Kenninji Temple (建仁寺)


This temple is known as the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. The temple owns the national treasure “Wind and Thunder Gods” as a temple treasure, and a replica can be viewed. The temple is also known for its beautiful gardens, including the Kyoto-style Karesansui (dry landscape garden) “Daioen,” the beautiful moss garden “Choontei,” and the uniquely named “◯△ロ Niwa,” which was newly created in 2006.

Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮)

enkiri,enmusubi stele

The shrine is often talked about for its effectiveness as a “enkiri” (Breaking off relations) bad marriages and bring good marriages together. The shrine is 1.5 m high and 3 m wide, in the shape of a large ema (votive tablet), and is covered with “katashiro,” or substitute money, in which many people’s wishes have been written. After visiting the shrine, visitors can obtain blessings by taking a piece of paper with their wishes written on it and walking through the hole in the center of the monument from the front to the back and from the back to the front. This shrine is ideal for those who have a connection they wish to sever or a wish they wish to make come true.

Minamiza Theatre (南座)

The Minamiza Theater, built on the banks of the Shijo River in Kyoto, is the oldest theater in Japan, believed to have been around since the Edo period. Designated as a Tangible Cultural Property of Japan, it underwent renovation in 2018 and was reborn as a place where tradition and new charms merge.

Although only theater-goers are allowed to enter the theater, the classical and artistic design of the building makes it an enjoyable space just to look at the building. Kabuki, a traditional Japanese theater, is mainly performed here. There is also an English subtitle guide service, so you can understand the content even if you do not understand Japanese.

Let's share this post!