Pontocho is the most centrally located of Kyoto's Hanamachi, or geisha districts. Unlike Gion, which seems pretty boring, Pontocho has a thriving nightlife area which attracts both Japanese and Westerners alike. Similar to Gion, the traditional houses are well preserved in Pontocho, giving visitors a glimpse of the past. While the area has many expensive restaurants, geisha tea houses, and even brothels, it also has many Western-style restaurants and pubs.
Pontocho is a long, narrow alleyway lined with traditional buildings, mostly restaurants and teahouses. Pontocho is best experienced in the evening and at night after the sun has gone down. The narrowness of the road and traditional houses combine with the lights from the restaurants to create an atmosphere that truly feels like a step back in time! In the daytime, I just didn't get the same feeling. It can be very intimate, too, if you are traveling with your spouse or significant other.
With all the restaurants, it is also a convenient place to have dinner. Many of them are pricier, though. Check the menu (usually posted outside) to see if you want the food and are willing to pay the price.
The area is also known for seedier activities, although many of those establishments are located on the small sidestreets.
It may be worth saying that the sign in front of Pontocho says it was once a "gay district" however, it is referring to gaiety and fun; it was never known for homoerotic entertainment!
What do the local teens do on a weekend evening? If you walk to the north end of Pontocho, right by the bridge, you'll find groups of them having jam sessions with electric piano and just hanging out. Good harmless fun for a while before the sun sets.
This well known little strip of bars, clubs and restaurants is well worth a walk in the evening. There are dozens and dozens of places to explore - more than the casual visitor will ever have time for. Some cater more to tourists than others, but most seemed friendly and welcoming. Most of the restaurants in this neighborhood have English, so you can have a good idea of what you get.
NISHIKI FISH Market and surroundings is worth seeing.
It's more than a fish market.
The Market runs for six blocks and is connected to two other arcades Teramachi and Shin-Kyoguko .
Three blocks east is PONTOCHO another entertainment and night life district similar to GION.
If you recall the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, you will be able to re-create the scenes in that movie in Pontocho. Pontocho is one of Kyoto's traditional nightlife districts where you might be able to spot a maiko (geisha apprentice) at night. It is a narrow street running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, one block west of the Kamo River.
In the evenings, the narrow street offers a great atmosphere and lots of restaurants and teahouses, ranging from inexpensive yakitori stores to highly exclusive establishments for Japanese patrons on company expense accounts and their guests.
I was fortunate enough to spot a maiko scurrying along Pontocho to her appointment.
Just west of the famous Geisha alley Pontocho is a narrow canal called Takasegawa. On both sides of the Takasegawa running from Sanjo to Shijo, are cherry blossom trees in full bloom during the sakura period in early April. At night, these cherry blossom trees are illuminated, creating a magical effect. Small bridges span the Takasegawa, reminiscent of the bridges of Venice. On both sides of the canal are bars and restaurants where you can sit by the window to look out at the canal and people watch. You may be lucky to spot a geisha or two!
Pontocho-dori is a narrow little lane east of Kawaramachi-dori and west of the Kamo river. The lane is hemmed in by restaurants and craft shops. It is particularly atmospheric at night when the eateries have red lanterns outside their doors. Even if you can't afford to eat in the expensive food-houses here, wander along the street an soak in the atmosphere. You may even spot Geisha hurrying along in the evening!
Pontocho is one of Kyoto's traditional nightlife districts where you might be able to spot a geisha apprentice at night. It is a narrow street running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, one block west of the Kamo River.
In the evenings, the narrow street offers a great atmosphere and lots of restaurants and teahouses, ranging from inexpensive yakitori shops to highly exclusive establishments which require the right connections and a fat wallet.
Pontocho is a small & narrow alley street a bit hidden off Shijo St. This street is lined with restaurants & machiyas (teahouses) where guests are often entertained by geishas. If you want to see a geisha or maiko (apprectice) it is best to go to this street around 7pm or later.
Pontocho is said to be the first place where kabuki was born.
Pontocho is one of Kyoto's traditional nightlife districts where you might be able to spot a geisha apprentice at night.
This is the place to visit after dark, it is mostly expensive traditional style restaurants with alot of old world charm at first world prices!
So many cute little restaurants overlooking the river on one side with this tiny lane on the other! Saw a Geisha dashing home from here one early summer dawn...