Shijo Street, home of the Shijo Hanei-kai Shopping Street, is one of Kyoto’s most important downtown streets. Shijo Street is intimately linked to both Kyoto's old and new cultural history. It is a place filled with energy and life, where people of all ages and occupations intersect.
Shijo Street runs through the heart of Kyoto city and crosses it's center from east to west. It starts from the symbolic Torii gate of Yasaka Shrine on Higashioji Street which is called Sakura-mon and often referred to as Ishidan-shita (below the stone platform) by the local people. The street stretches west all the way to Matsuo Shrine which is backed by the green steep slopes that border the western edge of the city. Historically, Shijo Street used to be known as Shijo-oji Street in the Heian-kyo capital of Kyoto, which was founded by Emperor Kanmu in 794.
The area known as the Shijo Hanei-kai Shopping Street, which lies between Karasuma and Kawaramachi streets, is Kyoto’s largest and most prestigious downtown shopping area. Everything from traditional craft shops and modern stylish shops to large department stores and international brand name businesses line both side of the street.
This area of Shijo Street is not only an important shopping street but also serves as the main avenue for the annual Gion Festival (July), one of the three largest festivals in Japan(the two other being the Tenjin Festival in Osaka, and Sanno (Kanda) Festival in Tokyo) . The Gion Festival is a gorgeous historical event that has been held in the month of July ever since Kyoto was founded. It is an annual festival that is intimately linked with Yasaka Shrine. The Gion Festival along with the Aoi Festival (May) associated with the highly important shrines of Kamigamo and Shimogamo, and the Jidai Festival (October) hosted by Heian Shrine are Kyoto's three most important festivals.
The highlight of the Gion Festival is Yoi-yama, on July 15th and 16th, when people light lanterns along Shijo Street and traditional festival music is played. The festivals climax is on the 17th when massive and gorgeously decorated floats are pulled by many locals along Shijo street fromthe Karasuma street intersection to Kawaramachi street where the floats turn and head north c toward Oike Street.
The eastern end of Shijo Street passes through the heart of Kyoto's most prestigious geiko and maiko flower town, Gion.
Shijo Street is an extremely attractive street and reflects many aspects for which Kyoto is world famous for. When visiting Kyoto, don’t miss the chance to experience this exciting street and make your time in Kyoto unforgettable.