Updated: Jul 19
Definitely a must-visit if you are in Kyoto! Famous for its traditional atmosphere with beautiful, old-fashioned architecture, Geisha, theatre, fancy tea houses and restaurants, Gion is probably the most traditional and Japan-like part of Kyoto. With its many shops it is perfect for taking beautiful photos, eating traditional food and sweets as well as buying souvenirs.
As Gion area is super close to Higashiyama area, where you can find Kiyomizu-dera, and Shijo-dori street, where you can go shopping, I recommend paring these three areas on one day.
How to get to Gion
Near-by train stations: Gion-shijo Station (Keihan) , Kyoto-kawaramachi Station (Hankyu)
Located between Gion District and Higashiyama District. 5 minute walk from Gion Shijo Station.
The thing that’ll immediately catch your eye is Yasaka-jinja. With its red color and huge size it is impossible to be missed. Yasaka-jinja also is the shrine which hosts the famous Gion-matsuri every June.
About Gion-matsuri (official homepage): http://www.yasaka-jinja.or.jp/en/gion.html
After passing the gate, you can access several sub-shrines, along them ones that are famous for helping you become beautiful and finding love.
The main hall with the prayer hall in front is where many cultural performances take place, including those performed by Geisha.
The gods worshiped here are Susano’o no Mikoto alongside his wife Kushiinada-hime and their eight children, the Yahashira no Mikogami.
Opening Times: 9:00 – 17:00 (grounds open to pass through 24 hours)
Address: 625 Gion-cho north sides, higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City
List of Yearly Events: http://www.yasaka-jinja.or.jp/en/event.html
Gion Tatsumi Bridge
This is not a sight, but a beautiful spot I recommend for taking stunning pictures. In fact, it is popular even between professional camera men for photo shootings as the atmosphere is so traditional and pretty with the canal and old houses in the background. There are cherry trees, too, which makes this place especially great in spring.
Opening Times: 24h
Address: 372 Kiyomotocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0084, Japan
If you’re already at Gion Tatsumi Bridge, why not take a walk alongside the canal starting from there?
With beautiful houses ranking alongside this idyllic canal you can enjoy a traditional atmosphere, giving you a glimpse of how Kyoto must have looked like in the past.
It is also a popular Hanami spot during spring season as the cherry trees give the area the last touch for the perfect picture.
This entertainment district has been associated with Geisha and Maiko, even though it is extremely rare to see them on the street. This street is lined by amazing, traditional architecture with lots of expensive restaurants, teahouses and cafés inside.
Address: Gionmachi Minamigawa, Kyoto, 600-8340, Japan
10 min by foot from Gion-Shijo Station.
If you follow Hanamikoji Lane to its southern end, you can find Kenninji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto which belongs to the Rinzai Zen sect. The temple was founded in 1202 by the priest Yousai (1141-1215). With its spacious grounds it is not only perfect for a stroll, you can see the Chouontei, which is a beautiful Zen garden, as well as paintings of two dragons decorating the roof of the Hodo Hall. This distinctive mark of Kenninji are images of the wind and thunder gods. Furthermore, there is a square garden fronted by the priest's living quarters, abbot's quarters, and reception room. The main part of the temple is the Hattou (Dharma Hall) which was built in 1765.
Attention: Closed until further notice because of Covid. Please check the official website for information about it.
Opening Times: March-October 10am-5pm, last entry 4:30pm
November-February 10am-4:30pm, last entry 4pm
Closed December 28-31
Admission: Adults: 500¥, High and junior high school students: 300¥
Address: Komatsu-cho, Yamatooji-dori, Shijo sagaru, Higashiyama-ku
Homepage: https://www.kenninji.jp (Japanese only)
Gion is not only famous for its traditional architecture and atmosphere, it also is a great place to watch traditional Japanese theater. Minamiza Theatre is said to be the oldest theatre in Japan and started operating as one of the seven theatres certified by the Tokugawa Shogunate in Shijō, which during early Edo period flourished as a town of plays. It is focused on manly Kabuki plays.
Address: Japan, 〒605-0075 Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Nakanocho, 198 四条大橋東詰
Ticket Prices: 3000-10000¥
This place does not exactly belong to Gion, but is very close from there, on the other side of the river. Pontocho is an atmospheric dining area with many amazing restaurants. It is a very nice photo spot too.
Address: Kashiwayacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8014, Japan
Cafes & Restaurants
Vegan = V , Vegetarian = VG, Non-Vegan and Non-Vegetarian = NV
In general, it is safe to say that most traditional Japanese sweets that are like mochi (for example daifuku, dango etc.), which you can find lots of here, are vegan. There are only few exceptions. If unclear, please ask the staff to be safe.
The following places definitely have vegan options:
Omen Shijo-Pontocho Branch (NV, V)
About 5 min from Hanamikoji Street, on the left side before entering the Shijo-Pontocho street which is on the other side of the river.
Serves one vegan option, the rest includes meat or fish. As it is not marked on the menu, make sure to ask the staff specifically for vegan udon and it will come with vegan broth. It comes together with different vegetables you are supposed to add into the broth. The noodles come separately from the broth and you just dip them in and eat.
You can also choose the tempura set, then you will get vegetable tempura additionally to the udon. The batter is made without egg. Again, please specify vegan so that you will get vegetable tempura only, not one with fish.
I personally really love their udon! It is yummy and comes with a variety of super delicious veggies. I especially love the kinpira gobou. It is included in the veggies, but sometimes I get a bowl of it on the side as well.
Opening Times: 11:00-15:00, 17:00-20:00 (Closed on Thursdays)
Address: Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8014, Japan
Gion Irize Saryo (V)
This super pretty little café is perfect for when you want a delicious icy treat on a hot day. They are one for the rare fully vegan parfait places and even offer them for take away. They have big parfaits as well as mini parfaits.
Check out this blogpost for more detailed information:
Opening Times: 09:00 - 18:00
Other restaurants with vegan options I’ve not been to yet, so I can't tell much about them.
Higashiyama Yuuzu (NV, V)
Vegan soft serve
Near Kenninji Temple.
Opening Times: 11:00 - 15:00 (last order 14:00) , 18:00 - 22:00 (last order 20:30)
Kyoto styled Okonomiyaki & Sake Oagari (NG, VG, V)
Kyoto style okonomiyaki
Opening Times: 12:00 - 14:30, 17:00 - 21:00
Address: Japan, 〒605-0074 Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Gionmachi Minamigawa, 537-2 ヒロビル 2F
Tokkyu Ramen (NV, V)
About 6min from Yasaka-jinja.
There seems to be one vegan ramen option.
Opening Times: 11:30 - 22:00 (Closed on Wednesdays)
Address: 30-4 Bishamoncho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan, 605-0821
Bali Bali Indonesia
Near Gion Shijo Station.
Opening Times: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 13:00 - 15:30, 18:00 - 22:00. Fridays: 18:00 - 22:00 (closed Mondays, Tuesdays)
(Call to ahead confirm!)
Address: 227 Nijuikkencho Higashiyama-Ku (at Shijyo Kawaramachi), Kyoto, Japan
Menkui Kinya (NV, V)
Separate vegetarian/vegan menu available.
Opening Times: Monday - Friday: 11:30 - 15:30, Saturday, Sunday: 11:30 - 14:30, 17:00 - 18:00
(Please call ahead to confirm!)
Address: 112-2 Hakatacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0805, Japan
Kyoto Curry Udon Mimikou (NV, VG, V)
Everything on the vegetarian menu is vegan except for one option with egg.
Opening Times: 11:30 - 21:00, (Closed on Mondays) Please call to confirm!
Address: 528-6 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0074, Japan
Kyoto Mamehachi (NV, V)
About 7min from Hanamikoji Street, on the other side of Shijo-Pontocho street which is on the other side of the river.
Please ask the staff for vegan options. Vegan lunch courses and dinner courses available.
Opening Times: 11:30 - 22:00
Address: 210-4 Nabeyacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8015, Japan
If you know or find more vegan and vegetarian-friendly places in this area, please share them in the comment section so that everyone can find them.
Where to visit next:
Shijo Dori Area
Check out my other Kyoto Sightseeing x Vegan Food Guides:
And my vegan food guide for Japan in general:
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