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Article was written by Ed and Natalie
Kyoto offers an abundance of cultural experiences and beautiful landscapes to explore during the day. As the sun sets into the evening, the city becomes a highly animated playground. Larger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka are targets for nightlife, yet Kyoto doesn't fall far behind. Kiyamachi is a long strip packed with various attractions including clubs and bars. Located in the heart of the city, the closest stations are Kawarmachi (Hankyuu line), and Gion Shijo( Keihan line). I can suggest a healthy list of places to hop around this area. Instead of heading straight to a bar, why not grab a bevvy from a convenient store and enjoy the view by Kamo river. It stretches for miles across Kyoto, but you’d want to be situated closest to Sanjo Dori. Fellow travellers, locals, and street performers gather here all year round. As an acoustic band serenades the air with renditions of pop songs, it's always nice to sit by the river whilst sipping on a 9% fruity beer. You’ll likely make a few new friends before moving to the next location.
A bold yellow sign attracts attention to a two-storey bar. A wide-open entrance with enthusiastic bar staff welcomes all visitors from near and far into a friendly atmosphere. The ground floor is often for people who want to smoke shisha, have a casual drink, or play darts. It's a more chilled out zone compared to the top floor. Towards the back of the room and up the stairs awaits the dancefloor. There is also a balcony for when it gets too stuffy to be inside. People come out there to share laughter and mingle in-between foreign languages. From 9 pm to 5 am, the transition from Pop, RnB, and Hip hop will keep you going. A second Zaza opened up across the street earlier this summer due to popular demand. It seems that the older model is still more favourable, yet, given enough time, it has the potential to build the same reputation.
Address - 〒604-8205 Kyoto, 京都市中京区 河原町 通三条下ル大黒町 71-25
►Hours –2PM – 5AM
It's time to sing-along to ‘Piano Man' whilst arm in arm with people from around the world. Get comfortably drunk on 500 yen beer, pick a fluorescent wig paired with oversized glasses. Since coming to this bar, it has cured my fear of singing in public. The kind of crowd that turns up to
Barcode are usually supportive and quick to join in with you on the high notes. Most open Karaoke bars charge an entry fee for a box-sized room and overpriced drinks. Barcode only asks that you purchase one drink before you can take turns sharing mics with neighbouring tables.
Address - 〒604-8024 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 四条上ル紙屋町 366 番地
►Hours – 8PM - 5AM
Tucked away in a basement resides an intimate bar with enthusiasm for reggae and dub. 'Sister Nancy' is heard from a few feet away before arriving at Rub A Dub, follow the music guiding you to a beach shack counter. The bar staff are happy to take requests within reasonable taste. If you’re a fan of Drum and Bass, they may be able to sort you out a few tunes.
Address - 〒604-8002 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Ishiyacho, 115 辻田ビル B1F
►Hours – 7PM – 12AM
If you like dimly lit grottos with posters covering every inch of drywall, I suggest giving Rock ING bar a visit. Its’ grungy speakeasy air makes you feel as though you’re on a movie set. Similarly, to Rub A Dub, it holds a capacity of 25 people or less. It’s a great joint of Rock music lovers, as the bar prides itself on playing such anthems by ‘ACDC’, 'The Who’, ‘Led Zeppelin’. One exceptional trait worth mentioning is the amount of flare the owner possesses, theatrically popping open bottles with lighters to emit a swirl of gas into the shadows.
Address- 〒604-8022 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 西木屋町通蛸薬師上る南車屋町288-201 京都ロイヤルビル 2階
►Hours – 7PM – 3AM
Kiyamachi Dori (Main night club and bar strip) can become quite hectic on weekends, especially after midnight as people shuffle into clubs. There are some clubs that offer discounts or free entry for foreigners. No matter how old you look, you will still be asked to present your ID at the door. It's super important to carry it, as bouncers in Japan aren't always so lenient.
Chambers is often up to date with their music with a diverse mix of Dance, Hip Hop, RnB, and Pop. Special guest DJs and Japan-based rappers often make an appearance, many of which are popularly known by the locals. The bar staff are friendly and hard-working, which in turn keeps customers returning. Depending on the day of the week, It's 700yen to 1,000yen entry per person plus one free drink ticket.
I've recently taken more of a liking to World, as there is a good mix of Japanese locals to foreign travellers. DJs at World and Chambers crossover between clubs, delivering endless uplifting tunes to orchestrate the mood. Descending two flights of stairs are multiple bars and a spacious dancefloor. Seemingly, the most fashionable of Japanese people attend this club, most with a distinct alternative style, rebelling against the traditional appearances with visible tattoos and piercings. There is a backroom accessible from under the stairs with a seating area to relax under pink lights. It's an attractive club worth the experience for 1,000 yen entry on some nights. No free drink tokens though I’m afraid.
Address - 97 Shincho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8001
►Hours – 10PM - 5PM
These are my main picks for bars and clubs in Kiyamachi. There are plenty more places stored away on flights of buildings, and underground basements. Exploring the city nightlife can be so much fun, and I hope these suggestions will introduce you to unforgettable experiences. Stay safe and enjoy your stay!