Gion and Pontocho, Kyoto
Since we were travelling with our toddler son we didn't visit the traditional bars and clubs that can be foubd all around Ponto Cho and the Gion. A nice alternative is to do some people watching during a long walk from the Gion, across the Kawagama River, through Ponto Cho, and into the "Floating World" of Kiyamachi-dori.
You don't have to go into one of the local clubs to kick back and enjoy the nightlife of Kyoto. Head over to Ponto Cho and check out the various street musicians who usually congregate around the underground train exits.
At night when the temples are closed, in Kyoto, one activity to do is to watch the Cultural Show of geishas and maikos, short displays of introduction Kabuki, Noh, Bunraku, puppet show, comedy, story telling and the tea ceremony. It is a all-in-one introduction of Japanese high culture which is worth seeing at least once. You can also take a lot of photos of each cultural ceremony but you will not be invited to dance with the geishas and maikos.
The Gion Area is a nice place where one can see well-restored traditional Japanese architecture. Most of them are restaurants now. Nevertheless, their decor and traditional feel still attracted my attention to take a close look at them.
A stroll along Pontocho-dori or through Gion's back streets in the late evening, provides wonderful people watching opportunities. Spotting Geisha or Maiko becomes rather addictive and trying to photograph them as they rush imperiously to appointments is a challenge. The chauffeured cars with tinted windows and seemingly endless stream of taxis through Gion hint at a mysterious and intriguing world of activity, light-years from the average westerner's comprehension.
The narrow streets of Gion is pretty interesting. My guess is that this is the red light district which I took a picture off. It is because I saw a lot of pimps trying to get people to patronise teir joint.
Ponto-cho is a famous narrow street, located between Kamogawa (gawa=river) and Kiyamachi street. Many restaurants and night clubs here. I went there with a Japanese friend, Rumi, and her dad on her Ph.D ceremony. We had a Kyoto style dinner at Ponto-Cho. The resturant allowed us to see the Kamogawa view at night. Food also was delicious. Sake tasted perfect. I could not remember the name of the restuarant but it just located about a few resturants if you enter Ponto-cho from Sanjo station side. After that we went in Russian bar, I and Rumi tried russian beer for the first time. Taste was Excellent!!
Dress Code: Normal dress.
If you get bored from the Kyoto's calmness it has also serves you a street just like in Tokyo. You will find many shopping centers around this area..also you can easily find the bars just behind the fashion bazaar.
Pontocho is a narrow (about a meter wide) little alley that runs between Shijo and Sanjo near the river, and it is full of fascinating little bars, restaurants and yakitori joints for every budget. If you're a photographer, you may enjoy taking pictures of the great doorways and lanterns. Stop and enjoy the food, too!
Dress Code: You'll see some people quite dressed up, but you can generally judge by the doorway about each individual establishment.
Gion Corner Traditional Japanese Arts Theatre is a bit expensive at 2800 yen ($27) but worth the price if you are interested in the culture of this country.
Included in the performances are tea ceremony, women playing the koto (Japanese 'harp'), geisha moving with rhythms of Kyomai (Kyoto style dance). Flash photos are allowed.
Dress Code: As in most public places, being dressed up is preferred.
Onze is a nice little French wine bar in Shijo where most of the city's nightlife is located. There is a food menu featuring their breads, cheeses, and others foods. Then there is a separate menu for the drinks and alcohol. There are quite a few options for alchohol, and some other options as well. I had some of the alcohol but I found the hot chocolate to be quite good! It's very thick, almost like melted chocolate.
As one might expect from a French restaurant/bar, it can get quite expensive. Many of the foods are over 1000 yen and of course, the alcohol will quickly produce a higher bill but for a night out that is a little more classy and laid back, it's nice. They try to keep the French atmosphere with the cafe feel and French radio in the background. It can get quite crowded but they do try to accommodate. It's open from 3pm to 1am.
Go to Gion area and have a walk to enjoy the vibrant night life in Kyoto. Not as vibrant as what I saw in Kobe, but not too bad.
There are many restaurants for dinner too. We went into a restaurant that is quite crowded with fantastic atmosphere. We ate something like tempura with salad. The sauce is quite special with sesame seeds. yummy.... Special sauce for the salad too.
This is a restaurant and we thought its design was pretty unique. So, we decided to take a shot of it.
I will be populating some pictures of the night scenes you will see when you are in Kyoto. It is interesting to observe the nightlife.
Geon area is full of excitement at evening.
You can find many bars, restaurants, and shoping area there and it's big enough to spend all your night time there.