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Girljin in Japan By Rachel Tranter Davies
Summer in Kamishichiken
Sip on a beer surrounded by maiko or wander the wooden-housed streets of this famous geiko district for a true sense of old Kyoto





The cultural heritage of Kyoto is astounding, but after spending over a thousand years as the capital, this isn't really surprising. From temples to shrines to gardens, people flock to the city to see ancient landmarks and a glimpse of an era now confined to history books. Often overlooked and so offering a secret sanctuary for visitors who wish to travel deeper into Kyoto's cultural past, Kamishichiken; Kyoto's oldest geiko district, is a hidden diversion just waiting to be explored.

I always ask myself why it is that such a stunningly preserved portion of Old Kyoto isn't jam-packed full of tourists and travellers? Located to the north west of the city, near the famed Golden Pavillion, it's slightly less accessible than the largest and most famous geiko district; Gion, which attracts hoardes of visitors to its machiya-lined traditional streets. Luckily the ancient charm, quaint cafes and exceptional restaurants make up for the extra effort to reach the area.



In kanji Chinese character, Kamishichiken literally translates to ''seven upper houses'', the name an ode to the establishment of the district in the Muromachi Period. After completion of the rebuilding of the Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine (which has stunning beautiful gardens and holds a huge temple market every month on the 25th), the workers were rewarded with the building of an adjacent entertainment district from leftover tools and materials. This entertainment district has now grown into the oldest and most traditional of Kyoto's five kagai (geiko districts) and is to this day, wonderfully well-preserved and a joy to visit.

Aside from being home to a number of geiko okiya and ochaya (teahouses), Kamishichiken's streets, something akin to being transported back in time to when samurai ruled the land, are bursting with quaint little shops, restaurants and even Mosaic Machiya, a guesthouse overlooking the intricately carved rooftops of the Saiho-ji Temple. Not only do they offer accommodation in the area, they have a wonderful cafe and bar, opening from 7:00 until 21:00, serving breakfast, lunch, beers and coffees as a muchneeded energy boost for intrepid travellers. Yuzuki sells the most ornately decorated kimono and offer a kimono and yukata (casual summer kimono) dressing experience. Pick up some pickles at Jugemu, sweets from Tenzindo or indulge in a chirashizushi set lunch (for only 1300 yen) at one of Kyoto's best-loved sushi restaurants, Yoshizuki.

The heart of Kamishichiken can be found in the Kaburenjo theatre. Here, starting from July 1st, the theatre opens as a maiko and geiko beer garden for the summer. Eat and drink amongst the manicured theatre gardens whilst watching concentric circles forming as kimono-coloured koi break the surface of the serene pond, all the while being served by, and being able to chat to, the maiko and geiko of this stunning district.

Mosaic Machiya also offer visitors the opportunity of exciting ''Encounters with Maiko'', from public events at their cafe, to VIP private banquets at one of the area's teahouse (POA). For more information email info@mosaichostel.jp or visit their website www.mosaichostel.jp, choosing the ''machiya'' menu option.


Rachel is a food, drink and travel writer. Originally from England, she recently relocated to Japan and is now finding her feet in Kyoto. You can find her blogging tweeting and instagramming her experiences at Girljin in Japan.




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