Gion (祇園)

Gion is one of the most popular downtown areas and entertainment spots in Kyoto. Originally, the kanji character '祇' (gi) as in '祇園' (Gion) was formed by combining '示' (ji) and '氏' (shi); however, '祗園' (Gion) today is a misspelling (see wikt, or Wiktionary: '祇'). The kanji character formed by combining 'ネ' and '氏' in JIS83 character set is still widely used for shop signs and guide signs in Gion. Gion developed as a monzen-machi (a town established around a prominent temple or shrine) of the Yasaka-jinja Shrine (called Gion-sha Shrine until the end of the Edo period) along Shijo-dori Street from the Kamo-gawa River (Yodo-gawa River system) to the Yasaka-jinja shrine on Shijo-dori Street. Gion is one of the major hanamachi ('flower town,' or geisha district also famous for apprentice geisha) in Kyoto, and has a kabuki theater called Minamiza. Gion today has many bars in addition to chaya (teahouses) and ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurants), and thus the traditional townscape has been disappearing; the streets lined with houses with lattice doors, however, remind one of the area's past elegance and dignity. The north of Gion which stretches from Shinbashi-dori Street to the Shira-kawa River has been selected as one of the Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings while the area in the south around Hanamikoji-dori Street has been designated as the Historical Landscape Preservation and Improvement District: the preservation and use of traditional townscape have been enhanced.

Additionally, the intersection of Shijo-dori Street and Higashi-oji-dori Street is called the 'Gion' intersection (it is often referred to as 'Gion Ishidan-shita').

[Original Japanese]