Arguably the single most atmospheric street in all of Kyoto, Pontocho Alley is a great place to do some geisha spotting in the evening.
image © Damien Douxchamps
Pontocho Alley, which runs parallel to the west bank of the Kamo-gawa River between Sanjo and Shijo is considered by many Kyoto residents and visitors to be the most beautiful street in the city. It’s lined with traditional shops and restaurants, and no cars, modern buildings or gaudy signs are allowed.
By day, it’s not much to look at. But in the evening, Pontocho becomes a magical place – the sort of street you might have imagined before arriving in Asia. Many of the restaurants and clubs here are pretty forbidding for foreigners without the right connections, but there are a number of places that welcome foreigners and have English-language menus and English-speaking staff.
If you spend some time waiting at the southern end of the lane around dusk on a Friday or Saturday evening, you’ve got a good chance of spotting a maiko (apprentice geisha) or geiko (fully-fledged geisha) scurrying to an appointment at one of Pontocho’s elite clubs.
Pontocho dori, Nakagyo-ku
Depends on the restaurant
Non-smoking area: Depends on the restaurant
3min walk from Kawaramachi Station, Hankyu line
Official site (Japanese)
Where Is This Place Located?See these places on our Kyoto Google map:
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Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world