The Best 7 Restaurants and Bars in Pontocho, Kyoto
If you know Pontocho already, you will already know that it is a very famous place for Geisha and Ocha-ya (the tea house where Geisha and Maiko entertain their patrons) as an entertainment district since 1670.
There are many spots in Kyoto, the ancient capital, where people can have eaten in historical areas, and where Pontocho is one of the most popular venues for many tourists throughout the year. Pontocho has been representing Kyoto and its culture for a long period.
You can not miss Pontocho if you are in Kyoto, you will be finding such a unique culture there, very traditional and very modern culture is mixed wonderfully.
So let us help you make your trip wonderful, by introducing some of the great restaurants and bars.
Why don’t you spend time in Pontocho enjoying the best meals whilst enjoying the very best of Japanese culture and atmosphere?
If you are vegetarian, please check it out:
About Pontocho, Kyoto
Let us give you some background about Pontocho first so when you go there you can appreciate it more.
Pontocho is a narrow alley, with very Japanese wooden houses running along both sides, and home to many restaurants and bars, including traditional Japanese cuisine.
The name of Pontocho came from “Ponte” (bridge in Portuguese) and “cho” means town or street in Japanese.
It is one of the best places to visit in Kyoto – perhaps in the world.
Pontocho was established in 1670 when the Edo government carried out a riverbank reinforcement project on the Kamo river, so the area between Takase and Kamo rivers became Pontocho. It became popular, and flourished, housing many Japanese inns and O-chaya (tea house) with many Geisha and Maiko working there.
Why Pontocho is so attractive?
As you know now Pontocho is one of the best entertainment districts in Kyoto, with many traditions, including the Geisha culture, which still flourishes today, and is the reason why Pontocho is still so attractive. You might spot Geisha and Maiko in the evenings when they go to work at the O-chaya. So many people visit Pontocho, which means that there are many restaurants and bars to attract both Japanese and foreign people.
If you want to find the traditional, photogenic beauty of Japan, you will find it in Pontocho!
Pontocho alley is located in the Hanamachi district of Kyoto, and it runs parallel to the Kamo river.
It is 5 minutes from Nishi Honganji temple, and just 5 minutes drive by taxi from JR Kyoto station.
The reason why Pontocho attracts so many people
Pontocho – one of its attractive points is to be able to have plenty of choices of restaurants and bars, from very reasonable ones to the most expensive ones, and it attracts many tourists, both Japanese and foreign. For example yakitori (Japanese style skewered chicken), sushi, steak, soba (buckwheat noodles), okonomiyaki (Japanese non-sweet pancake), Japanese traditional cuisine, Italian and many more.
If you are vegetarian, we recommend “Omen Shijo-Pontocho Branch”, a very Japanese-ish old-style noodle restaurant.
Many of these places welcome foreigners and even have an English menu.
Especially when walking at night in Pontocho, it is such a fantastical place, with the alley lit-up by many Japanese paper lanterns. It is just like stepping back 350 years ago, or you are in an old Japanese film, we can guarantee an out-of-this-world experience.
We recommend the best 7 restaurants and bars in Pontocho!
The best 7 restaurants and bars in Pontocho, Kyoto
There are actually too many to choose from? But let us help you to choose where to go and have great dining out experience in Pontocho!
1. Kappa Sushi
You can have Edo-style, very fresh, sushi and other a la carte dishes from the menu at Kappa Sushi whilst you enjoy the view of the Kamo river. There is a Kaiseki course as well – a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner – with various types of alcohol. There is Kawadoko (the floor is paced over or beside the Kamo river) in Summer to enjoy Japanese food amongst the local nature.
Budget: lunch 3,800yen～, dinner 4,800yen～
Opening times: 17:00-24:00 (L.O. 23:30) Monday to Sunday
How to pay: American Express, JCB
Address: 160 Matsumotocho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0982
2. Yakitori TORIHARA-Kyoto
Specialty chicken menu, like Yakitori and others, in a cozy location at TORIHARA in Pontocho. TORIHARA serves local Tanba chicken, their own vegetables and many different types of sake, including local ones along with other types of alcohol. Amazing food along with the chef’s hospitality.
Budget: Yakitori 190yen～, beer 590yen～,
Opening times: lunch 12:00-14:00 (L.O. 13:30) dinner 17:00-23:00 (L.O. 22:00)
How to pay: American Express, JCB, Visa, Master, Diners
Address: Pontocho-dori, 182-2 Zaimokucho, Sanjo-sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8017
3. CUCINA Italiana & Bar SFIDA
SFIDA is a modern Italian restaurant and bar with beautiful scenery where you can enjoy meals and wine.
There is Kawadoko (the floor is paced over or beside Kamo river) from May to September to enjoy Japanese lunch and dinner in Kyoto’s nature.
Budget: lunch 3,000yen～, dinner 8,000yen～
Opening times: lunch 12:30-13:30 dinner 18:00-20:30
How to pay: American Express, JCB, Visa, Master, Diners (not electronic money accepted)
Address: 232-10 Nabeyacho, Shijo-sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 133 meter from Gion Shijo station
4. Ukiya Pontocho (soba)
Ukiya is a soba restaurant in Pontocho established in 1929, and there are 7 Ukiya in the Kansai region, but this one in Pontocho is the main restaurant.
Soba at Ukiya is totally handmade, using 100% domestic ingredients, so it is very fresh. You can choose from many options, and not the only soba, but the set menu is soba and tempura or sukiyaki on top of rice. If you might want a challenge, try the special menu of “soba and natto beans”. Quality food in a very calm and conducive atmosphere.
The English menu and guide are available.
Budget: lunch 1,050yen～, dinner 2,000yen～
Opening times: lunch 11:30-15:00 dinner 17:00-20:30 Mondays are closed
How to pay: American Express, JCB, Visa, Master, Diners
Address: 125 Ishiyacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8002
5. Yasube Pontocho (okonomiyaki)
If you would like to try okonomiyaki, Japanese non-sweet pancake, in Kyoto, we recommend Yasube in Pontocho. It has a very friendly atmosphere, and the okonomiyaki is very delicious and at a reasonable price.
Each table has its own teppanyaki hot plate where your food is cooked and brought, which keeps it nice and hot.
Budget: okonomiyaki from 630 yen, beer from 550 yen.
Opening times: 16:30-23:30 (Monday to Friday), 15:00-23:30 (Saturday, Sunday and Holidays)
How to pay: NO credit card accept
Address: 142 Umenokicho, Pontocho Sanjo-sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8012
6. Pontocho Suishin
Suishin is a Japanese restaurant in Pontocho that serves beautiful and authentic Kyoto cuisine in a traditional Kyoto Machiya townhouse style building.
The interior is also designed as a Machiya style house, so you can feel quite at home.
The food is very Japanese, such as tempura, sashimi, wagyu, syabu-syabu, tofu, and others, and they are all served on beautiful Japanese chinaware, reflecting the seasonable atmosphere.
An English menu is available.
Budget: about 4,000 yen
Opening time: 17:00-23:00 Monday to Sunday
How to pay: American Express, Visa, JCB, MUFG, DC, NICOS, Ginren
7. Bar Kissyou(吉祥)
After a long day of sightseeing, you might want to relax in a cozy space. Bar Kissyou in Pontocho is especially appropriate, serving more than 120 different regional whiskeys of Japan – and also great food.
Opening times: 17:00-25:00
How to pay: credit cards are acceptable
Address: Kawashima kaiak building 1F, Kaburenjomae Minami 9 kenme Higashigawa, Sanjo-sagaru, Pontocho-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8011
Now you have some knowledge of Pontocho by reading this article.
If you have just one day in Pontocho – sightseeing during the day and dining out at night – your trip to Kyoto will be special and you’ll find so many cultural aspects, as Pontocho continues to promote Japan’s traditional beauty, whilst always evolving in today’s modern world!
Thank you for reading.