Gion (祇園) & Kawaramachi (河原町) Area

Friday, 29 December 2017



After putting down our luggage, we headed out to explore the Gion & Kawaramachi Area, which is about 12 minutes from our Airbnb (by foot and train). We got off at Gion-Shijo Station (祇園四条駅) and used Kamo River (鴨川) as a place marker to distinguish which side we were on Shijo Dori—the Gion (祇園) or Kawaramachi (河原町) side of town.



Running through the centre of Kyoto, Shijo Dori (四条通) is one of the most vibrant streets in the city and is where we spent the most of our nights during our time there. Not only is it lined with numerous restaurants, bakeries, dessert stores, boutiques, traditional souvenir shops, and department stores, it's where you can also access the geisha district of Gion. (The correct term for a geisha in Kyoto is actually "geiko" (芸子), and we even saw a real-life maiko (舞妓)—an apprentice geiko—just outside Pontocho (先斗町).)





We didn't have anything planned on our first night in Kyoto because I knew that we would be really tired after 15 hours in transit. Therefore, we took it easy and simply strolled down Shijo Dori towards the Kawaramachi area window shopping, exploring and familiarising ourselves with the area before grabbing dinner.





One of the snacks we got before dinner is dango (団子), a Japanese dessert made of rice flour. I'm a huge fan of any types rice cake like Japanese mochi and Korean tteok, so dango is something I've been meaning to try for the longest time. However after eating it, I realised that it's not actually a sweet dessert like I had always imagined (like the Chinese glutinous rice balls or tangyuan), but a combination of both sweet and savoury with a hint of smokiness instead.



For dinner, we wanted to find a soba restaurant, or at least a restaurant which offered soba, because I was craving it the whole day. We eventually decided on Gion Kyomen (祇園 京めん), a small but cosy traditional restaurant just across from Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社). Their menu pretty looked good from the outside and their prices seemed reasonable, so we just walked in without thinking too much. As soon as we entered, what caught my attention first were the signatures plastered all over the walls—meaning that even famous people have visited their restaurant, and an indication to us that their food would be decent if not good.











We ordered udon with a miso base (which was a seasonal dish), a soba set and a dish of vegetable tempura. The udon base albeit salty was so flavourful and hearty, and nothing like we've ever had before. The soba was chewy with a refreshing dipping sauce. The unagi rice and tempura was not amazing, but still good. Overall, I absolutely loved our first proper meal in Japan and would highly recommend this restaurant.



Looking back at our time in Kyoto, I don't think we spent much time at all in Gion except for that short 15 minutes when we were looking for a restaurant to have dinner (before finding Kyoto Kyomen). The reason why we didn't eat there because they were really expensive (even by Sydney standard) and appeared to mostly cater to foreigners. We wanted to eat where the locals go!



After having dinner, we headed over to Pablo (just across the street from the restaurant) to try their famous cheese tarts. Pablo is a popular cheese tart chain in Japan and is very similar to the cheese tarts at Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart and Uncle Tetsu. However, unlike the Hokkaido-style cheese tart, the tarts at Pablo have a more crispy, less buttery pastry and a lighter custard-like cream cheese filling. They also come in 3 different flavours: original, matcha and chocolate. We just ordered one original and one matcha that night, but ordered all 3 to eat again before we left Japan. Personally, I like Pablo's cheese tarts the most.





Gion Kyomen (祇園 京めん)
323 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto 605-0073
605-0073 京都市 東山区 祇園町 北側323

Pablo Kyoto Yasaka Shrine (Pablo 京都八坂神社前店)
300 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto 605-0073
605-0073 京都市 東山区 祇園町北側300

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