Before heading to Nanoboro Festa, a famous underground music festival during my trip to Kyoto, I decided to rent a yukata (casual summer kimono) and do some sightseeing in the Gion district. Historically, this area was one of the most famous for its tea houses and traditional sweets, upscale lodging for visitors, and the extremely aesthetic Yasaka Temple that attracts a lot of people with its brilliant colors.
Yasaka Temple is dedicated to the three wise monkeys and a guardian warrior known as Shomen Kongo. The colorful cloth balls that are attached to it are called “kukurizaru” which are talismans that provide good luck by taking away greed and impure desires. Like ema and other talismans in Japan, you are able to purchase one at the gate if you would like to make a wish or prayer, but there is no fee to enter the area where the temple is.
Back in the day, many geiko (who are similar to geisha, but are known more as “woman of art”) resided in this area. Nowadays there are many bars and restaurants as well as hotels for travelers, but much of Gion’s history has been preserved and it is a very relaxing are to visit. You can see beautiful parks, temples, a river, and bamboo growing around Gion Station, so it is definitely worth checking out.
For those who are interested in renting a kimono, I rented one for 4000 yen from Kyoto Kashin in Gion. This is actually a very good price because it includes hairstyling, accessories, and shoes as well. At first I was a bit nervous about wearing one because I am a foreigner in Japan and it is not native to my culture, but I realized they are very flattering and fun to dress up in when you are seeing temples in Japan. I encourage everyone to try it at least once~