Traditional Architecture in Hanamachi District Kyoto
Whilst planning our itinerary for Kyoto, and living in Beijing, my friend Jenny had mentioned to me a couple of places we had to visit; one being the Gion District to see the Geisha and the other being Pontocho which is an old entertainment district with traditional restaurants, bars and a few of the city’s elusive Geisha tea houses. I couldn’t wait!!
On our very first evening in Kyoto we walked to Pontocho from our hotel and on the way we walked past Kamogawa River which had restaurants and bars on its banks. When we arrived at Pontocho we saw it was centred around a narrow alley with beautiful walkways. I immediately fell in love with this beautiful alley.
It’s a lovely place for a stroll, particularly in the early evening as when darkness is about to set in, lovely street lamps/lanterns are lit. My research showed that Pontocho is a place where you might see Geisha rushing off to a tea house or performance – we didn’t see any unfortunately (but did in Gion and more on that in another post).
We decided to try and find a place to eat as we had read that Pontocho has many fine eateries featuring mostly Kyoto cuisine. Of course all signs and menus are in Japanese and as my friend and I did not speak nor could we read Japanese, we had to go by the look of the place.
I knew that many of the restaurants in Pontocho require formal attire in the evenings and considering we were in jeans, we looked for somewhere that appeared to be more casual – we found a pub like place up some stairs and enjoyed a wonderful meal with wine and a lovely view. The owner was such a lovely man and the menu had a little English but we worked it out and I was served a wonderful vegetarian meal.
We had read that the area is known for its high prices and exclusive establishments that only accept reservations from people they know or know by reputation. Other businesses in Pontocho aren’t particularly exclusive but require reservations by phone in Japanese. So I think we were very fortunate to find this wonderful restaurant where we were the only two diners during the hour or so we were there.
Pontocho is definitely a place worth visiting especially at dusk. Make sure you look down at the pathway – beautiful designs embedded into the stones.