Chasing the Lights of Dusk in Nene-no-Michi and Gion

By Christina Kim - August 10, 2017


The sun was slowly retreating to rest by the time I had visited the last shrine for the day (Yasaka Shrine); the shrines and temples in the same district.

It was a whole day, from shrine to shrine on foot, through the most scenic routes (the beautiful Philosopher's Path/Walk which connects the temples and shrines), and thankfully they are all located in the same district.

Along the way, I spotted a shrine or two which I skipped due to their closing hour (it was almost dusk and most of the shrines and temples are closed by 5pm).

Perhaps it was the inspiring sceneries or the cool weather, or perhaps my enthusiasm towards the shrines, I barely feel the weight of the day on my feet as the day draws to an end.
Well, maybe just a little, but barely masked my excitement to want to call it a day.

As the first sign of the golden hues of dusk began to appear, I had reached the mesmerizing streets located in the Higashiyama-ku district; where most of the shrines and temples I had visited during the day were located, on the eastern part of Kyoto.



After passing by the quiet residential streets, shops along the way, the street here, with its warm glowing lights and soft voices in the background, seemed merry and lively to draw anyone's attention.

It is no surprise that the district is a rather subdued one; for Higashiyama-ku(東山区), out of the total eleven wards in the ancient capital city of Kyoto, is the one with the lowest population. 
The name literally means "Eastern mountains" and development on this part was subjected to much restrictions which led to the decline in its population.
(The eastern part of Kyoto is mostly surrounded by forests and mountains)

The street is quite a picture; like one that is torn out of a fairy tale, or at least close to one, for while it is just a simple and span for a short distance, the warmth of the lights and the stone-paved streets seemed magical.


It must be the soft glimmer of the golden dusk radiating through the remains of the sun as it slowly sinks, casting that calming shade over the skies and highlighting the street which seemed to twinkle in its glory.

I want to call it a street, but at a glance, it seemed believable that it seemed like a town to me.
It was just really pretty, glowing in its own way.

There was not much of a crowd; peaceful yet still maintaining a somewhat jovial atmosphere in the background as people walked past the rows of shops selling souvenirs, tea and local merchandises.


Most of the shops here are well-preserved and traditional in style; which gave it that nostalgic feel as one walks along the street, thanks to its protected status which is also perhaps one of the reasons for its lackluster development.


The street is located near the Yasaka Shrine; and is a preserved heritage area, known as the Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, and the street itself is named Nene-no-Michi lane.

(Ninenzaka means "slope of two years" and Sannenzaka means "slope of three years")

The area is indeed slightly sloped in its topography, and it is interesting that the locals believed that if you were to fall on the slopes; depending on which, you will die within that number of years. 
For instance, if you fall on Ninenzaka, you would die in two years and the same applies for Sannenzaka.


There is no real source to the origin of the saying, though perhaps it was intended to remind people of the slopes and to be wary of the uneven road to prevent any mishap or injuries.
On the other hand, it is also interesting to note that an alternative set of kanji characters for Sannenzaka supposedly says "Slope to pray for a safe delivery"

Whichever it is, it is still all about practicing caution when you are walking around the area, so there is no harm.

A short distance away from this charming street is the renowned district of Gion; known for its entertainment.


Gion, close in proximity to Yasaka Shrine (it is just in front of the shrine), was originally intended to serve the needs of the visitors to the shrine.
Over time, the district slowly grew into one of the most popular entertainment and exclusive geisha spots in the whole country.


Just like the earlier street, the shops here are also mostly of traditional styles and are well-preserved to maintain its uniqueness, with part of the district being heralded under the national historical preservation efforts.

While it is well-known for its geishas, or rather Geiko (the Japanese women in the trade don't refer to themselves as geisha, but Geiko which means "women of art"), I barely saw that many of them.
I spotted two who was dressed beautifully in their full costumes but were hurrying down the streets, so it was just a glimpse.

It is not such an unusual phenomenon though, as the number of geishas/geikos have been on a declining trend for at least the past century, though the district is still buzzing with the lively drinking bars and pubs adding to the merriment and living up to its reputation.

Gion still kept most of its traditional architecture intact, and is part of the Kyoto's government conservation project to maintain its ancient status, while continuing its entertainment business in an uniquely classic setting.
It may very well be the reason for its status as an attraction spot; for all its worth.


The charm and fame of this entertainment district made it the perfect background for the popular novel "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden, which was published in 1997.

It had everything that matches the criteria for inspiring such a work of art (I personally like the novel), and I do hope that Gion will still continue to stay unique for years to come.

It was a lovely day, and the lovely heritage street of Nene-no-Michi and Gion, came together as the perfect end to the day, further coloring it with that rustic feel to create the picturesque memories in my mind, where they will stay for a long long time.

Just the way I love it.




*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Art Direction and Photography Styling by Me.
Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.
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