7318734668_362de856d6_cGion is the famed area of Kyoto close to and surrounding Yasaka Shrine.

The neighborhood was originally developed to serve the needs of pilgrims to the shrine – mainly inns and restaurants – but ultimately came to be home to the tea houses, geisha, and night culture that have made the name of the neighborhood synonymous with the famous flowers of the night.

Today there are several hundred working geisha in Kyoto.

Though Gion in places is quite beautiful, much of it is like the rest of Kyoto. In particular, the area north of Shijo Dori that contains the hostess bars, cabarets, and other bars and brothels catering to middle-aged business men is astoundingly gaudy. And you will never find a geisha or maiko here.

In the area near Shirakawa Dori, however, telephone wires have been buried, there are no garish signs, and it looks like what tourists expect to find in Kyoto