Shinbashi dori   新橋通り

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The banks of Shinbashi.

The machiya, the traditional houses on the banks of Shinbachi.

Machiya, traditional merchant houses, on the banks of Shinbashi.

The promenade of ladies of bygone days

Gion is the soul of Kyoto. A timeless district, it has preserved the customs and the appearance of medieval Japan. Shinbashi dori marks its northern boundary.

No neon here: only the dim glow of paper lanterns illuminates the dark wood of the stop fronts. The pedestrian street invites visits on a journey through time. It is lined with many machiya, traditional urban dwellings and authentic ochaya.

But don't get confused. If the term ochaya literally means "tea house", it actually refers to institutions where geisha serve and entertain clients. Access is often reserved to a number of handpicked regulars. The famous drink is only one among many here. It is the chashitsu that host tea ceremonies.

Strolling along the Shinbashi dori allows those who are not part of the kyoto elite to see geiko (the local name for geisha) before they disappear in a rustle of cloth. When night falls, evening visitors stroll dreamily on the polished cobbles to the Shirakawa River, to contemplate its course for a moment, before leaving to lose themselves in the city.

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