Pontocho Alley is a narrow stone-paved alley in Kyoto that runs north to south from Sanjo Street to Shijo Street between the Kamo River and Kiyamachi Street.
What is Pontocho Alley?
Pontocho is a small alley running parallel to the Kamo River from Shijo Street to Sanjo Street. From May to September, the restaurants put up elevated terraces overlooking the Kamo River. This tradition dates back to the late 1500s.
You can find traditional tofu restaurants, as well as yakiniku grilled steak restaurants.
A Brief History of Pontocho
Somewhere around 1712, the first teahouse with a tea ceremony lady was established at an inn that served the Takase Canal boatmen and their passengers.
In 1873 Kamogawa Odori was performed for the first time, and Pontocho became famous as a geisha district on par with Gion.
At the northern end of the street, there is the Pontocho Kaburenjo, built in 1927, where the Kamogawa Odori is performed every year from May 1st to May 24th.
The width of the street today is the same as it was during the Edo period (1603-1868) and some original structures remain because the buildings were spared from fires during the Kinmon Incident.
The buildings on Pontocho were built to the very limit of the property boundary, putting their entries right on the edge of the street.
Pontocho is a unique alley that cannot be found anywhere else in Kyoto.
How to Get There
Pontocho is easily accessible from Kyoto Station via bus, train, or subway.
From Kyoto Station, you can take bus numbers 4, 5, 17 or 205 to the Shijo Kawaramachi bus stop, and it’s a 5-minute walk north to the alley.
Take the Keihan Railway Line to Sanjo Station, and it’s a 5-minute walk from Exit 6.
You can also get off at Gion Shijo Station, and it’s a 3-minute walk from Exit 4.
Take the Hankyu Railway Line to Kawaramachi Station, and it’s a 5-minute walk from Exit 1A.
Take the Tozai Subway Line to Keihan Sanjo Station, and it’s a 5-minute walk from Exit 6.
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