Back alleys of Ponto-cho, Kyoto

Back alleys of Ponto-cho, Kyoto


Kyoto has various attractive places, and one of them is probably the “back alleys.”

Ponto-cho is one of those places where the back alleys are very attractive. Known as one of the 5 still remaining Hanamachi district, where geiko and maiko live and work, Ponto-cho is lined with elegant stone pavement alleys and wooden latticework machiya houses.

You can experience the elegant atmosphere of traditional Kyoto strolling the area, and if you are lucky, you may also encounter the geiko and maiko walking down the alleys.

The narrow back alleys branching from the main alley may lead you to the bars or private homes, and each peek into one of them can lead you to another special experiences.

🐠Back Alley Aquarium🐠

One day when I was walking down the alley, there was a refreshing looking goldfish bowl at the entrance of such back alleys which caught my attention. Peeking into the back alley beyond the goldfish bowl, there was an array of goldfish tanks, the Roji-Suizokukan (路地水族館: Back alley aquarium in Japanese).

This must be the city’s smallest aquarium (probably) in Kyoto!

The movement of the small goldfish darting about in the tanks with their beautiful tail fins make you lose track of time.

😲Sea Otter Show!?😲

I was about to leave this place feeling refreshed, and then I saw this sign.

A “sea otter show” by Director Rakko (sea otter in Japanese) will start at 5:00 p.m.

Once I saw this sign many questions popped in my mind.

Will there be a pet sea otter named “Director Rakko?”

Or will there be a person dressed as a sea otter?

The sign said that the sea otter show would start at 5:00 p.m., so I decided to wait for the show.

And then…

A middle-aged man appeared.

Who is this guy???

This guy was the “Director Rakko.” He was the director of the aquarium, and at the same time, he had been involved in the town development of Ponto-cho.

So called “sea otter show” by Director Rakko was a private Ponto-cho tour with Director Rakko.

I was the only participant of this private tour that day.

So Director Rakko and I left the Roji-Suizokukan and started to stroll the alleys of Pontocho.

👟Exciting Ponto-cho Tour with Director Rakko!👟

Walking along the alley with the Director Rakko, I learned about the origin of the of the Ponto-cho district and its history with geiko and maiko. Director Rakko also taught me various stories about the activities he had been doing to preserve the Ponto-cho district.

The most impressive comment by Director Rakko was, “A town that succeeds as a tourist spot has fish.” He said that he had been noticing this while researching on tourist spots throughout Japan in the process of urban development.

And that was reason why he decided to create an “Roji-Suizokukan” in the back alley of Ponto-cho in order to make this district a habitat for fish.

The “Roji-Suizokukan” is open to the public, and if Director Rakko is available, he will put on a tour for the visitors. The “sea otter show” is only available in Japanese, so be sure to visit with a Japanese-speaking friend or guide!

🐰Little Japanese Arts & Crafts Shop “Pyon Pyoko Pyon”🐰

Director Rakko is also running a little Japanese arts & craft shop, which is located next to the “Roji-Suizokukan”. Cute rabbits will welcome you! It is worth a look too!


🐠 Roji-Suizokukan 🐠

📍 Address
207 Shimokorikicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8016

🕰️Rakko Show (Ponto-cho walking Tour) Schedule
Everyday 05:00pm starts
*Up to Director Rakko’s availability.

👛Tour Fee
300 yen per person

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