Located along the Kamogawa River, Pontocho Izumoya has been serving up deliciously tender and smoky eel for over a century now. As a bonus, it’s pretty tourist-friendly, too.
Pontocho Izumoya – image © Chris Rowthorn
Winding parallel to the Kamogawa River between Sanjo and Shijo bridges, the narrow, lantern-lined Pontocho Alley is a popular spot with tourists these days for its atmosphere and dozens of restaurants. One of the most hallowed along this street is Pontocho Izumoya, more commonly called Izumoya. They’re an unagi and kaiseki restaurant that’s been dishing out grilled eel to locals and visitors for over a century now.
Rather unusually, unagi at Izumoya is cooked in the Kanto-style rather than Kansai-style, meaning that it’s sliced along the back and steamed before grilling. This leaves it more tender throughout, practically melting in your mouth. It’s beautifully smoky too. They also use eel innards in the miso soup – that’s real top-to-tail eating for you!
Izumoya is a popular establishment right in the center of town, so if you go without a reservation, you might have to wait in line. Luckily, they have four floors of seating, and the wait usually isn’t too long. Go at lunchtimes if you’re on a budget – it’s always more reasonably priced then. Skip the shabu-shabu if you’re not feeling extravagant.
If you manage to get a windowside table overlooking the Kamo River, all the better. We like visiting in summer when they set up the verandah next to the river for outdoor dining. It doesn’t get more atmospheric than this on summer evenings!
For more Kyoto unagi choices, see our Best Unagi In Kyoto page.
Name in English:
Name in Japanese:
173-2 Kashiwaya-cho, Pontocho-dori-Shijo-agaru, Nakagyo-ku
Non-smoking area: Completely Non-Smoking
2min walk from Kawaramachi Station Exit 1A, Hankyu line
Official site (Japanese)
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 Icoca 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