Pontocho, Gion and the best pancake ever

//Pontocho, Gion and the best pancake ever

Day 4 and the next on stop on our Japan adventure was Kyoto for a three-night stay. We opted for a local train that took us from Osaka to within walking distance of our hotel.

We arrived in Kyoto without our luggage! 

To clarify, our luggage beat us to Kyoto. In Japan it’s common for tourists to have their luggage transported to the next destination and like everything in Japan, it worked like clockwork! For around AUD30 we had two bags forwarded the afternoon before we left Osaka, keeping an overnight bag, we sent the rest on. This allowed us to take a local train to Kyoto and not have to worry about manhandling our luggage up and down the subway station, change trains and find room for it on a busy train.

Our hotel was super easy to find and since I had plans to hit the town after dark we decided to chill out for a few hours. On my list for the evening was Gion and Pontocho. Again, it was a loosely hatched plan and once again it lead us to some pretty awesome locations.

Cherry blossoms and geisha girls

Gion is known as the entertainment district and it’s very likely to catch a glimpse of Geisha (and no they aren’t prostitutes). There’s also an amazing array of food, more than this in a minute…

We took a slight diversion to a side street to avoid the crowds and stumbled onto a beautiful, softly lit laneway lined with cherry blossoms. A little waterway flowed between the street and buildings beyond, it was simply magical.

We lingered for a while taking photos. It had a romantic vibe and seemed a popular spot for couples to congregate, we even saw Geisha and a beautiful Japanese lady being photographed. From what I can see on Google Maps the street was Shirakawa-minami Dori. 

Just as we had stumbled across the beautiful laneway, we also stumbled across dinner. According to the sign, Issen-Yosyoku is a kind of Okonomiyaki, Kyoto-Style! Yep I knew you’d like it…

Okay I’ll translate further, it’s a Japanese savoury pancake and this particular form of deliciousness contained the following ingredients: (takes a deep breath) green onion, egg, dried shrimp, grilled fish paste, flour, dried bonito, beef, ginger, tempura batter, konjak jelly, dried seaweed, Japanese sauce. I took photos but I’m sorry they are just not going to do it justice! Take my word for it – it was delicious.

There were lots of shops in the main strip of Gion all vying for the tourist dollar but we weren’t interested in their wares so I couldn’t even tell you what they were selling. Actually, I do remember seeing jars of cherry blossom petals which intrigued me but I didn’t stop to investigate further.

Me in Shirakawa-minami Dori – Cherry blossoms as far as the eye can see, and geisha girls off in the distance


Japanese lanterns set the scene in Pontocho

Just across the Kamogawa River from Gion is Pontocho, a gorgeous little laneway steeped in culture and dotted with gorgeous Japanese lanterns. Tiny western-style bars sit alongside Japanese restaurants all set in in traditional machiya-style wooden townhouses. This was something I really wanted to photograph. However, the photos are just too two dimensional to do it justice, it needs all five senses to fully appreciate.

We wandered around and found more laneways lined with cherry blossoms enchanting tourists and locals alike. Gorgeous little bridges crossed the waterways and weeping willows and other lovely trees added to the beauty on the water’s edge.

We walked back to our hotel and were struck by the contrast, from quaint Japanese culture in one street and then turned a corner into busy cosmopolitan streets. That’s Kyoto.

Pontocho – a feast for the senses, photos will never do this little laneway justice


More happy snaps from our Japan adventure

That pancake! Seriously is was THAT good! A huge flat grill production line and they struggled to keep up with demand. This lady was cracking eggs, two at a time, on top of the mix


Another look at the cherry blossoms in Shirakawa-minami Dori, Gion


Pontocho – Restaurants and bars set in traditional machiya-style wooden townhouses


Pontocho – the choices are endless


More lanterns one street back from Pontocho


But wait, there’s more cherry blossoms. As I kept saying to my husband, “why are we here in Japan – to see the cherry blossoms” 


Read about the rest of my adventure here

DAY 1 – Cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle

DAY 2 – The great Torii on Miyajima Island

DAY 3 – Umeda Sky Building and Dotonbori

DAY 4 – THIS BLOG – Kyoto – Pontocho, Gion District & the best pancake ever

DAY 5 –  Arashiyama – Bamboo Grove & The Romantic Train

DAY 6 – COMING SOON – Fushimi Inari & Kyoto Tower

DAY 7 – COMING SOON – Nijo Castle

2017-05-28T08:45:00+00:00 May 15th, 2017|Categories: Take Me Away|Tags: |

About the Author:

Hi, I’m Dianne, the creator of Me Time Matters, a blog intended to empower women to put themselves first - giving them permission to take time out to enjoy the things they love.