Kyoto of course has no “gothic quarter.” There is no ancient walled section of the city that remains as it was 500 years ago. This isn’t Barcelona.
There is a certain messiness to Japanese cities, and this part of Kyoto is no exception – but that is also part of its charm.
Still, magic is out there waiting to be found, and not just on the well-trod routes.
One such place is the area bounded roughly by Horikawa Dori on the east, Marutamachi Dori on the south, Badai Dori on the west, and Imadagawa on the north.
This area has no world heritage sites, not even a famous temple. If you stumble upon a tourist in this area, she is probably lost.
What it does have is a large number of still-standing stock of old wooden homes, narrow streets rarely used by cars, a great folk live music club called Jittoku, a temple with 8,000 daruma dolls, and a self-enclosed feel that renders it somehow separate from the surrounding areas of the city.
You will of course find the usual mishmash of architectural styles, telephone wires, and messiness. However, the area is a great place for a slow ride, a shortcut into downtown from western Kyoto, quite a few neighborhood temples to explore, the highest concentration of Jintan street signs (metal street signs tacked onto buildings in the early part of the 20th century) in the city, a trip to an old public bath, or to listen to music at Jittoku (below right).
Another “site” is the Jurakutei (聚楽第), which was a lavish palace constructed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi from 1586 to 1588. Today all that remains is a historical marker. The location of the palace is a block north of Nijo Castle, bounded west to east roughly from Chiekoin Dori to almost all the way to Horikawa, then from south to north Shimochojamachi Dori to Ichijo Dori.
Getting to the Starting Point
From downtown, ride west on Oike Dori to Horikawa.Turn north on Horikawa (Nijo Castle will be across the street on your left). Ride north to across Marutamachi Dori and turn left. Head in.
There are none. However, if you follow the map, you will be able to locate Jittoku, Cafe Des Artistes is just south down a street from the factory, Daruma Temple is the next stop, several public baths follow, and then the Nikkatsu Adult Theater, a sordid relic from the 1960s that is amazingly still in business. Daruma Temple is a funky little temple filled with 8,000 daruma dolls.
Three of the public baths on this route are quite old and atmospheric. All are excellent and worth a visit, but we are partial to Kyogoku Sento, the last stop.
Total Riding Time
Two to three hours riding.
Places of Interest
Cafe Des Artistes
075 821 7200
Jittoku Folk Club
075 841 1691
Entrance Fee: Depends on the performer
Nikkatsu Adult Theater
075 821 7200
Entrance Fee: 1500 yen
Horinji Temple (Daruma Temple)
075 841 7878
Entrance Fee: 300 yen
Public Bath x 4 (in order according to the map: Gen Yu, Yamashiro Onsen, Nagamono, Kyogoku Yu)
Entrance Fee: 410 yen
Kyoto Gothic Quarter Route
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