Japan 2012 - Hanami-Koji in Kyoto Gion

The biggest attraction in Kyoto is without a doubt the Gion district, where tourist throng hoping to catch a glimpse of the enigmatic geishas and maikos. Hanami-Koji is probably one of your first stops when you visit Gion. This is a long street lined on both sides with old wooden merchant houses - called "machiya", which are mostly restaurants and teahouses. These are some of the most exclusive establishments in Kyoto and you will need deep pockets to dine here, even deeper pockets if you wish to be entertained by maikos or geishas.

Theres more to it then the maikos and geishas of course. I was fascinated by the architecture of the houses there. They are quite low - often just high enough for a person to stand up without touching the ceiling. This makes the upper floor very close to the ground, and overall creating a very intimate streetscape. There are very little open windows - most of these are covered with wooden shutters or blinds, presumably so that the geishas or maikos who live on top can spy on the street without being seen.

Like everybody else who was there, I was waiting for the maikos to appear. Your best chance of spotting one would be in the evening. I was luckly to see several. They always seem to appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly, so you need to work really fast with your camera.


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