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Finding a place in Kyoto

The first thing I review with expats moving to Tokyo is how to find places. With a Roppongi address as an example and a big map, I usually point out that we do not have a street and number system in Tokyo. Three sets of numbers at the end of a Tokyo address zeroes in from a big area, then to a specific block, and finally ends at a specific unit on that block. Then, just to make things interesting, I add that there’s no set direction for how the numbering goes up and down. It’s confusing, but at least that’s how I am so used to associating numbers and places.

Early this July, I had a chance to explore Kyoto at night on my own, so I decided to stop at a few sake places I had been told to check out. I had the bar names, so as usual, I looked them up on the web.

One of them, Shinme, gave me Kyoto, Kamikgyo-ku, Senbon-nakacachi-uri-agaru as the address. Not knowing how exactly the address system works in Kyoto, but having a map, I showed the cab driver where it was and he got me right at the intersection where I spotted the big sign for 神馬.

After a very pleasant conversation with the lady behind the counter and some excellent sake-centric Kyoto dishes at Shinme, I decided to try one more place. Takahashi, I was told, had good soba and sake, but this one was a bit harder to find any information about online. When I looked it up, I got two completely different maps for the single address I was able to find. This read: Kyoto, Nakagyo-ku, Shijo-takakura-sagaru, east-side, second floor. “Am I really going to find this place with this?” Having had a few drinks and being a bit tipsy I caught another taxi. “Do you know the name of the building?”, the driver asked. “No, this is all I have.” So he took me to the spot and said, “From the address you gave me, it’s around here somewhere, but I don’t know where.” I got out of the car, looked around, and there it was! There was a very modest wooden sign for Takahashi in front of me. I thought to myself, “Taxi’s in Tokyo often get lost even with exact addresses and GPS navigation systems. Kyoto drivers must really know the streets.”

I am still not 100% sure how people find places without specific numbers in Kyoto. I guess people know the cross streets and directions and use this unofficial system rather than the official address system.

“The system works by naming the intersection of two streets and then indicating if the address is north (上ルagaru), south (下ルsagaru), east (東入ルhigashi-iru) or west (西入ルnishi-iru) of the intersection. What this means is that a building can have more than one address depending on which intersection is chosen.”
-quoted from Japanese Addressing System/Wikipedia

If you are in Kyoto, find these places for sake and food!

Closed on Sundays
Tel: 075-461-3635

Old style izakaya with very elegant Kyoto food.

Kyoto, Nakagyo-ku, Shijyo-takakura-sagaru East side 2nd floor
I do not have their phone number

It’s very modern and hip sake bar with good soba and tsumami.

Kyoto Sake Dining

Front page header photo CC from Mmonhsi.


One Response to “Finding a place in Kyoto”

  1. Food looks delicious! Thank you! Haha, that’s great about the taxi driver mysteriously leading you to it.

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