Gion: Kyoto’s Oldest Geisha District

During the 17th century, the Japanese shogun established special districts, called hanamachi, in which geisha (“geiko” in Kyoto dialect) were ordered to live and work. (A note: although many Westernizations use the term “geishas” as the plural form, I prefer to stick with “geisha” in the plural, because it more closely parallels Japanese.)  Kyoto has five such districts, of which Gion is the oldest and most famous. (Pontocho, which features in several of my Hiro Hattori novels, is a close second.) As an official “historic preservation district,” Gion remains, in many ways, an eighteenth century town. Traditional two-story houses, called machiya, line the narrow streets. In Japan,

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