While the nearby city of Osaka might be more famous for its nightlife than the old capital of Kyoto there’s plenty of bars and drinking spots to be found, especially in the areas around Kawaramachi and Sanjo stations. In the beginning of the series, let’s look at 3 which are all easy to get to from Kawaramachi station.
Cafe la Siesta is a bar dedicated to retro video games, with old consoles and handhelds freely available to play and even an arcade cabinet which is free to play on Thursdays. Alongside the games all the usual drinks you’d expect are available as well as a selection of video game themed cocktails and on Friday and Saturday nights there are usually DJs playing.
Cafe la Siesta Website*Automatic translation
This is a great bar for enjoying a few beers or making new friends, especially on busier nights. The inside looks like a log cabin with long, shared tables so you’ll often get chatting with locals as you sit together while enjoying a few bottles of beer which the staff will open with a quick flick of their chopsticks! (Not as easy as it looks- though they’ll let you have a go!)
Barcode is one of my favourite bars in Kyoto, we almost always pop in for a few if we’re out! They have free karaoke and the friendly staff will bring the machine and microphones over to your table and take your drink orders for you. If you’re out a bit earlier they have a happy hour and some weekends there’s DJs. If you’re hungry they have some great Philipino style food (which is great!) and they have Shisha if you like a smoke. There are sometimes special events such as the “Why not?” international parties held there too which usually brings in a great crowd! Go out of exit 1a and head north up Kiyamachi-dori. Go across the second bridge across the canal then turn right and you’ll soon come to the building which has all three bars. Cafe la siesta on the ground floor and upstairs down the corridor is “A bar”. If you go through the corridor on the ground floor to the other side of the building you can find Barcode up on the third floor.
For the second part of our look at Kyoto’s nightlife, this time looking at a few bars along the main drinking street of Kiyamachi between Shijo and Sanjo street.
Zaza is a friendly international bar which does drinks and shisha. It’s on the main strip so it’s usually one of the busiest places to go, especially on weekend nights. It’s really popular with both locals and foreigners and a great place to mix with Japanese people. Whenever we go there we end up making new friends! There’s two floors with a balcony upstairs overlooking the street and the canal which is really beautiful in springtime when the cherry trees are in blossom and the branches reach almost to your table.
Ing is Kyoto’s rock bar. It’s just the right kind of small and dark bar to have that cool rock bar atmosphere with an owner who truly loves his music! There’s a huge collection of CDs and LPs behind the bar and he’ll play requests for you if he has them. It’s a popular bar and can get pretty full at weekends though it’s much more chilled out during the week. It can be difficult to find though, look out for the big white sign with lots of bar names on and go in and up to the second floor.
Rub a dub is a Caribbean themed reggae bar on Kiyamachi. The whole place has a great holiday feel and the bar itself is made to look like a beachside bar with a corrugated iron roof and palm trees, bananas, and tropical paintings. They have DJ’s at the weekend and it can get pretty busy but keeps a really chilled out vibe. Rub a dub is towards the North of Kiyamachi, near Sanjo street, keep your eyes open as the signs pretty small and the bar itself is in the basement.
RUB A DUB Website*Automatic translation
Cheese Kitchen is a relaxed bar popular for it’s cheap all you can drink options. The offers vary but sometimes it can be as low as 500yen for women for an hour all you can drink or “nomihodai” in Japanese. They serve food too and it’s a great place to start a night out!
Lastly, for the third part of our look at some best places to drink in Kyoto we’re going to look at a few of the bars nearby to the main strip on Kiyamachi but still in easy walking distance.
The Gael is one of the most famous and popular Irish bars in Kyoto. The staff are really friendly and it has a great pub atmosphere! They hold a number of different events such as the monthly open mic nights and “Why Not?” international parties which really fill the place up! Drinks are reasonably priced and there’s some great food on offer including some traditional Irish dishes.
The Gael Website
The Pig and Whistle is a traditional English pub. Inside is decorated just like a local pub you would find anywhere in England. They have a great selection of beers and serve proper pints! As well as drinks there’s a good selection of British style pub grub, with fish and chips, and meat pies. They have live performances on some nights too and even a darts board. The Pig and Whistle is just by Sanjo station
The Pig and Whistle Pub Website*Automatic translation
M4 is something a little bit different when it comes to a drinking spot. Named after the M4 rifle the bar actually has a miniature shooting range inside where anyone can have a go between beers! There’s a selection of different guns you can try your hand at from the M4 itself to handguns. With the rifles you use a paper target of a terrorist and with the handguns there’s also numbered metal plates you have to shoot as they’re called out. Of course, the guns are replicas and shoot pellets rather than bullets but they’re weighted to feel like the real thing and it’s great fun to have a go with your friends on a night out! M4 is Kawaramachi and the Teramachi shopping street. If you off Kawaramachi street at the Loft store it’s on your left. Opposite the Hotel Vista Premio.