Looking for Geishas in Gion, Kyoto

geishas in kyoto, japan

When we returned to Kyoto for the second time we knew that we also had to return to the neighborhood of Gion, which is said to be one of the last areas of Japan where geishas are still at work in teahouses. Unfortunately, the last time we were there, we were unable to see any geishas for ourselves but nonetheless, the streets are a gorgeous mix of old and new that we loved to wander around.

After wandering around the streets for awhile, we started to wonder if geishas were real at all or if we were on the hunt for an imagined animal. At least we weren’t alone. I’m pretty sure all the other foreigners walking anxiously down the street that night with cameras ready in hand were looking for the same thing.

teahouses in gion, kyoto
Luckily for us, the second time around we were more than lucky. It seemed like we had arrived to the area at just the right time because we saw three geishas in a row scurrying off to different tea houses (one walking alone and two others with escorts on either side). As silly as I felt for making such a big deal out of it, my jaw literally dropped when I saw them. I can’t imagine how annoying it would be if I were her, all these tourists out and about just wanting to grab a picture of her. I don’t blame her for walking as fast as she did into the safety of the teahouse! Thankfully right after I snatched a picture of her back. I’ll be honest, all I know about geishas has come from Wikipedia and the book, Memoirs of a Geisha (which I highly recommend). But I always get so giddy when there is something that I have read or learned about and I get to actually see it in person. 
gion kyoto teahouses

If you want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time, grab a cup of coffee and stroll through the side streets of Gion. There’s a peace about this area as the streets are illuminated by lanterns sitting on the ground outside the teahouses, lit up, just waiting for customers. Even if you don’t spot a geisha, it’s still a beautiful area to wander.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13466529771940384972 Blush and Barbells

    Aw, your photos brought back happy memories of Japan for me. Thanks for such a lovely post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10426220364648734333 Emma C

    It’s incredible to think that such an old tradition is still alive and kicking!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08300509693671365389 Sam M

    That’s all I know about geishas too, but that’s super cool that your saw some this time! I had no idea they still did that in certain areas.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09473864297662164393 Mallory @ Sweet Smores

    Yay! That’s so awesome :) I saw a geisha the first time I visited Kyoto and it a great experience. She even let us take a picture with her, which I still find unbelievable, since they hardly ever stop for pictures. I love Gion and I’m sad that we weren’t able to explore more of the area (dumb typhoon), but next time! Kyoto is probably my favorite city in Japan, so I’m sure I’ll be there a lot.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10888956203263380230 Susannah

    Wow!!! How amazing is it to see something that is so stuck in time. When I think geishas, I think the past! It’s crazy that geishas are still around!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01420347044681661661 Rekha Monger @i Relate To That

    I cannot believe when you actually saw geishas scurrying around. Ever since I read Memoirs of a Geisha, I have been fascinated with them. I can very well relate to your giddiness when you saw them :D. I’d certainly love to visit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07636855265099660016 Danielle Villano

    Oh wow, how great! I would certainly love to visit. The streets are beautiful.


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12253373351871972448 Jes

    I had the same experience. Our fist visit to Gion, nothing. Second time, we struck gold!


    And for those wondering, we were there a bit earlier, around 4-5 in the evening.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18444025045886559396 Nicole Marie

    wow what an experience!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01462804060646159589 Rachel Murphree

    Oh wow! I read Memoirs of a Geisha back in high school and I have been so curious about them ever since!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18255015430958927483 Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    Oh what a dream to shoot a geisha!!!!! LOVE that shot you got. Kyoto is definitely on the dream destination list.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07238434752028472905 Jenna

    So COOL that you guys actually spotted one! I was in Kyoto in 2006 and didn’t even have an idea that there was an area that had geishas. Guess I’ll just have to go back 😉 xxx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18078490770259036708 Alexandria C

    Wow! You’ve been able to go to so many different places. I hope to some day be as well-traveled! I’m starting my traveling adventures next fall when I spend a semester in Europe. Great Blog!


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09543581308363689982 Chantal

    Cool!! I loved Memoirs of a Geisha. Amazing movie.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05920354862781838330 The Happy Type

    It looks like you two had a blast in Japan!! I wanted to visit before I left, but it looks like maybe a winter visit is the only option now. Also, I would have peed if I saw a Geisha in the REAL, and as usual LOVE the photos! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06720694596549999667 Caroline

    This does look like it came straight out of Memoirs of a Geisha! I loved that book – I would’ve totally freaked out if I saw one too, and hahaha it does sound like you’re talking about trying to find a mystical animal – or an African safari!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12050447967374041694 Rachel

    How cool! I’d love to see a real live geisha at some point. Gorgeous! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04953214506719119690 Quyen Nguyen

    What a beautiful street! I love how mysterious and romantic the streets look like in the shadows.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08797568345510218583 Megan C. Stroup

    I am also a big fan of that book. What a neat experience!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00949568633591757350 Britt

    I’m so jealous! There was this amazing Groupon or Living Social for a Kyoto and Tokyo vacation but it wasn’t in the budget :(
    I MUST go next year!
    Britt @ One&20

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07538789947066862726 Sherbet and Sparkles

    There was an article a while back saying that actually the geisha really don’t like having their photos taken without asking, so perhaps you just found a cold one!

    Actually, Memoirs of a Geisha isn’t the real story – the woman behind that story wrote her own autobiography called Geisha of Gion. Memoirs isn’t as good because it’s written by a man, for a western audience. I highly recommend you read the real story as it’s way better!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09021229566110221637 Zia

    Beautiful pictures! Wish I could go there sometime. I never actually read Memoirs of Geisha, but my mom loves it so much.

    Zia of Bits Of Germany

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03481775343584575260 Casey Martin

    So interesting! Japan is high up on our list soon!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02924287399418536406 Holly Nelson @ English Girl Canadian Man

    Oh man, would love to go there! I have major wanderlust right now!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15806065790207418929 Lisette

    I love the photography. Gion looks so exotic!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15122946915958791776 Mrs. B

    Love this post! So jealous!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01684308892011431144 Muriel Vega

    Around what time did you head over to Gion? I’m heading over there in two weeks and I’m crossing my fingers (which feels weird — I know what you mean!) that I see one. Loving your Japan posts so far. They are making me so excited about my trip!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03340277403271465452 Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      I’m not sure of the exact time but I believe it was around 6 or 7 in the evening. Good luck! It’s an amazing sight to see!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01684308892011431144 Muriel Vega

      Thanks! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12445081275530729227 jackie jade

    this area looks gorgeous and i loved memoirs of a geisha as well.
    — jackie @ jade and oak