Modest Atmosphere Incorporating
Tradition and Philosophy


Shijo-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-City―an address of a district of Kyoto―may sound mundane, but it also uses the local term “Monzenmachi of Yasaka Shrine”, which provides a vivid illustration of local people out in the old streets.
To be more specific, the district is called Gion, an area extending between the western part of Shijo-dori, which starts from Yasaka Shrine in the east, and Kamogawa River. It is one of the well-known towns in Kyoto in the world. There are many theaters and Japanese traditional restaurants in the narrow alleys, which are also known as a major entertaining district. In the past, some female entertainers in Gion sold sexual services while others entertain customers by their highly-established musical talents. Gion remains dotted with many old-style buildings, which are attractions to the eyes of visitors from around the world. It has been recognized as one of the best places to experience traditional Japan in Kyoto.
To get a feel for the world of commoners in the world of “old Japan”, Gion would be probably the best town where one can sense the vibrancy of ordinary people in old times. Kyoto has many shrines and temples which were the central places for studying various philosophies and aesthetic values. In addition to the fact that Kyoto had been home to generations of Emperors, the town still retains a distinctive atmosphere of refined culture.

Tastes for Court Noble Culture Deeply Rooted in Commoners Lifestyles; Art Becomes Part of Daily Life, Helps Satisfy Minds of Local People
During the Meiji Restoration, Japan’s capital was moved to Kyoto, an idea that met strong opposition from royal families, court nobles, and even commoners. To assuage their anger, the new government used the word “Tento” or a designation of the capital, instead of “Sento” or a relocation of the capital. The government pretended that Mikado, or the Emperor would not leave Kyoto behind, but would simultaneously rule two capitals, Edo and Kyoto.
Shortly after the relocation, Edo was renamed Tokyo, which has developed into the political and economic center of Japan since then. But it was not until World War II ended that Tokyo was officially designated as the capital of Japan, suggesting that special consideration was given in the face of protests against the relocation. There still remains a considerable literature regarding the relocation of the capital, which describes details of heated debates among political leaders who played active roles in the Meiji Restoration.

Living with Noble Pride


A culture developed around the Gion district has still been preserved among Kyoto locals, and is often compared with the merchant culture of Edo, that is characterized by an open and liberal atmosphere filled with vigor. Today’s culture in Kyoto originates from old aristocrats.
It strictly observes tradition and formalities and respects manners. It derives from the glitz and glamour of royal families in addition to pride of court nobles. The culture was further refined and established by Zen Buddhism, particularly in the tea ceremony, which taught self-restraint. Incorporating all these aspects, culture in Kyoto stands out with its refined sense that has been handed down from generation to generation among locals.
Because of its too much emphasis on preserving rules, a proud attitude sometimes gives a sense of snobbishness to others, putting oneself in a difficult position. But a person who is free of other’s opinion and has his own independent ideas looks attractive.
Gion would not be alone in a way of living with pride in today’s Japan. But it has become the world’s best sightseeing spot because we can sense distinctively refined tastes directly from local people who adhere to a lifestyle that values noble pride―a way of living that can be a role model for the rest of us when we are faced with difficulty in our life.
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