Pontocho And Gion

The Kamo-gamo River partitions the Pontocho area on its western bank from Gion, on the east. The latter is well-known for its historical Pleasure Quarters, but both districts are occupied by numerous period ochaya (tea houses) and restaurants. Although a day trip down Pontocho, a narrow pedestrian-only street, is picturesque, a night visit to see the display of delightful multi-coloured signages would crown the experience. Many of these ochaya and restaurants have extensions over a stream that runs parallel to the Kamo River which serves customers during the warm summer months. The Takase-gawa (canal) runs parallel with the Pontocho, a street away and hemmed-in by Kiyomachi-dori and shop and tea houses. The weeping willows along its banks, together with the slowly flowing water is mesmerizing, if not for the cacophony of footsteps and voices around. The famous Kamogawa Odori (Kamo River Dances) are performed by traditional geishas during April-May and October-November at the Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre.

The Gion Area are on either side of Shijo-dori, north (Shimbashi) and south (Gion), and offers numerous quaint insights in its narrow side lanes. Kabuki (skits of farcical nature, usually romantic in content) is still performed at the famed Minami-za Theatre (South Theatre), prominently located at the entrance to the area. Well preserved architecturally and historically, Gion offers a microcosm of traditional Japanese residential and ochaya designs along its narrow streets and cul-de-sacs that are a delight to stroll around any time of the day.

We also wandered around the commercialized Karawamachi-Dori and Shijo-Dori area, south of the Pontocho area, where departmental stores are located: Takashimaya and Daimaru among others. Kyoto Railway Station Area has several large stores that extend several levels underground: Isetan Department Store, Porta Underground Shopping Mall, The Cube, Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, with Avanti and Aeon Mall a stone’s throw away.