Geishas, Gion and clubbing Kyoto style

Kyoto Travel Blog

 › entry 2 of 5 › view all entries
A backstreet in Gion district

I arrived in Kyoto yesterday and I must admit the public transport system is quite different from the easily understood one in Nagoya.  The problem with the Kyoto system is that there are a lot of competing systems and the metro, frequently the easiest way to get around a foreign city is not entirely useful.  Anyway, I struggled to my home for the next four days in Kyoto; the Bakpak hostel in Kyoto.  This is part of a chain of hostels in Japan with sister sites in Tokyo and Osaka.  They offer very cheap accomodation (mine was about £9 ($18) for a dorm bed per night) and have no curfew so you can stay out as long as you want!  I dumped my rucksack and headed out into Kyoto city.

4 geishas (not made up) walk down one of the most picturesque areas of Kyoto - as seen in Memoirs of a Geisha I believe!

The position of the hostel is excellent for reaching many of the sites of Kyoto, as it is located just to the west of the famous Gion district, an area populated by low old-fashioned tea-houses - presumably the haunt of many a geisha.  These are the famous painted ladies of traditional Japan, sometimes erroneously seen by westerners as high-class prostitues but in fact they are nothing of the sort.  Really the best way perhaps to describe them is like a sort of hostess and dinner companion.  They would put on exquisite dance and musical displays and entertain their male guests with clever small talk and the afformentioned displays which required extreme skill.  I wondered around the area for a while taking in the sights and sounds of this area before heading off towards the hills stumbling across many shrines along the way.

The colourful temple of Yasaka-Jinja. People pray by throwing money where they are standing and shaking the ropes. Get used to this orange if you travel to Kyoto - it's everywhere!

It is here that you begin to understand the complexities of the religion within Japan.  Many Japanese are followers of both Buddhism and Shinto - the original religion of Nippon.  The two are seen as complimentary, with Shintoism being the religion of earthly needs and Buddhism taking care of your soul when you die.  The temples around Kyoto contain either one (or sometimes elements of both it seems) and it is the entrances that usually tell you whether the shrine is Shinto or Buddhist.  These shrines are normally very well looked after by their monks and treated with extreme reverence by visiting Japanese and (usually) the foreign tourists.  More on the temples in my later blogs though, Kyoto has many, many temples!

Yesterday evening I went out for drinks with other travellers I met in the hostel, two aussie guys, a british girl, a swiss girl and a turkish/austrian guy.

A beautiful sight in Maruyama-Koen - the park just behind Yasak-Jinja. People are frequently found walking around this peaceful area.
  We managed one drink before failing to get into a 200 yen bar some of the others were familiar with.  After this we lost the girls and the turkish-austrian before I and the aussies stumbled across an empty 200 yen bar.  Now these bars are an excellent invention.  How they work is they charge you a small cover fee (normally 300 yen) and from then on any drink is 200 yen (£1).  The bars are called Bar Moonwalk and are usually found in small rooms up what looks like a housing block.  The signs tend to be small so look out for a dark sign with a crescent moon and the outline of a rather curvaceous woman!  They offer an incredible range of cocktails so the three of us picked drinks we would never normally choose just to see what they tasted like!  27 drinks (between us) later and we thought it was time to move on so we stumbled over to an Aussie-owned bar/nightclub.
One of the Aussies posing with two japanese nightclub goers at about 4.30am. The obligatory 2 finger salute from the japanese is in evidence here!

A great night was had dancing away in this place.  Despite the fact that the place was owned by some australians, the appearance of foreigners does cause some interest in the local population.  You may struggle to communicate however unless you know a lot of Japanese.  The aussies had already perfected the word kawaihe which they told me meant cute.  I have since found out however that if you aren't careful you may actually be saying scary!  So don't be surprised if you get some strange looks!  The DJ wasn't particularly great (a copy of iTunes on your laptop does not a DJ make) but if you've managed to neck a skinful at a 200 yen bar the night will be pleasant, even if you do end up feeling rather bad at stumbling into your dorm at gone 5 in the morning!

loloa312 says:
Will be in kyoto this winter! Looking forward to it :)
Posted on: Oct 21, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
A backstreet in Gion district
A backstreet in Gion district
4 geishas (not made up) walk down …
4 geishas (not made up) walk down…
The colourful temple of Yasaka-Jin…
The colourful temple of Yasaka-Ji…
A beautiful sight in Maruyama-Koen…
A beautiful sight in Maruyama-Koe…
One of the Aussies posing with two…
One of the Aussies posing with tw…
photo by: ys484