Fire is still smoldering in the Gion district of Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward on July 9. (Video footage by Kazuhiro Ichikawa)

KYOTO--A spectacular fire on July 8 damaged five buildings in the traditional entertainment district of Gion here, disrupting the bustling nightlife and forcing the evacuation of many customers.

Five wooden two- and three-story buildings with a total of about 620 square meters were damaged in the blaze, according to the local fire department.

Of the five buildings, two were completely destroyed, including a Japanese restaurant where the fire is believed to have started. No injuries were reported.

The fire was reported at around 9:15 p.m. when a female owner of the restaurant located on the south side of the Gion district in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward called police, saying, “Smoke is filling the restaurant.”

A 42-year-old woman who works at another restaurant in the Gion district said, “Although I saw only smoke in the beginning, the blaze suddenly intensified. I was scared.”

A 50-year-old housewife who lives nearby and was evacuated said, “I noticed the fire as smoke and the smell emanated from the site. When I got out from my house, the intensity of the fire increased and embers were falling. My face got so hot while I just stood there.”

Twenty-five fire engines were dispatched to the site to respond to the blaze.

The site was on Hanamikoji street in the Gion district, about 2.5 kilometers northeast of JR Kyoto Station.

Kyoto-style wooden townhouses called “kyo-machiya,” housing traditional tea houses and Japanese restaurants, line the street. This area is a popular tourist spot and a major draw for foreigners.

As the fire raged on, firefighters sprayed water from the roofs of nearby buildings and from ladders as onlookers, including “maiko” apprentice geisha, watched.

Customers who were evacuated from buildings and passers-by flooded the street, forcing taxi drivers to honk their horns to try to pass, adding to the confusion.

As of 1 p.m. on July 9, the fire had not been fully extinguished and firefighting efforts were continuing.