Monday, Feb. 14, 2011

5. Gion

It's not the only geisha district left in Japan, but Gion, a collection of streets defined by its old wooden buildings, teahouses and exclusive Japanese restaurants, is by far the most famous. Spend an hour wandering the area and chances are you'll glimpse a geisha or two shuffling between teahouses in their cumbersome zori sandals and exquisite kimono. Much to their annoyance, you'll probably see camera-happy Japanese tourists stalking them too. Not that Gion is just about geisha. Every July, their charms are eclipsed by the Gion Matsuri, a festival that attracts in excess of a million visitors for its procession of festival floats and traditional musical performances.

Numerous bus routes from Kyoto Station and other parts of the city stop at the Gion bus stop.