Feb. 08, 2019 UPDATE

Yontomi Kaikan is a tipsy trip back to the Showa period in Kyoto

Enjoy Kyoto’s night at one of the old and trusty pub complexes of Kyoto, and try some of the great food and snacks in an almost overly friendly atmosphere
Vanessa[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

There are many izakayas in Kyoto, but I have to say I like places like Yontomi Kaikan the best; these places are mainly frequented by locals, and are off the beaten path, so they give you a chance to see a wholly different Kyoto, one where you can talk with the locals in cozy small bars. This time we went to three different pubs, but next time we will go to some more, so just wait for our next article! 

There are three old-fashioned pub complexes in Kyoto: Orizuru Kaikan in by Hankyu Station, Lido Inshokugai by the Kyoto Tower, and the one we have here today, Yontomi Kaikan, between Nishikijikoji and to Shijo streets. Even though this place is in the middle of the busiest downtown area, the place looks like it is surrounded by a thick veil of nostalgia. 

pub complex

There are around 15 pubs in this pub complex, all of them unique. So, it is time to in, and have a drink in Kyoto-style! 


The first place me and Sampo decided to go to was Teshima, more of a restaurant than bar, and we have heard a lot of good things about it, which is why we had to go and taste it by ourselves! 

quite small

This restaurant seats around eight people, and even the space where the chef works his magic is quite small. 

cold plate of appetizers

They are maybe most known for their course of six dishes for 1,500 yen, and first you get this cold plate of appetizers: eggplant, bell pepper, kazunoko (herring roe), grilled escargot, a fried fish and some duck, a lot of great food to go with your beer! 


Next, some sashimi: sweet-tasting shrimp and tuna. We were addicts from the first bite! 

vinegar sushi-rice and the slight sweetness of the tuna

Then we got some sushi, and the vinegar sushi-rice and the slight sweetness of the tuna went together so well we cleaned this plate up in no time! Having something this good with beer sure makes you feel happy. 

how happy Sampo looks

Look at how happy Sampo looks! We finished all of our sushi almost in seconds!

tofu salad

This refreshing tofu salad was no exception! And because we are in Kyoto, the home of tofu, the tofu was so good you could taste the fragrant soy beans used in making it. 

lemon udon

Last, we had some lemon udon: a surprisingly refreshing bowl of udon noodles with the soup tasting of bonito and lemon, and I drank quite a lot of it! 

took this picture

After eating, me and Sampo looked for the next pub we should go to, and took this picture of the moody corridor. (We Taiwanese just love taking photos!)


So we decided to go to Shinanomura, a pub that has a nice selection of sake and shochu, and is run by a lovely and friendly lady. 

 two glasses of shochu

Here we wanted to try something different, and got two glasses of shochu: barley shochu and sweet potato shochu. 

fried sausage

The lady of the pub soon made us something small to eat, and we got some nicely fried sausage! They had a curry taste, and also tasted nostalgically of home. 


They don’t have a menu for these small dishes, but they are made by the lady keeping the bar fresh every day. This simple dish was komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach) and tofu skin, a great dish for women, to have something healthy while out drinking. 

the atmosphere was really nice

After two pubs, a bit of a break outside the pub complex; the atmosphere was really nice.

I already felt somewhat tipsy!

I already felt somewhat tipsy! But we still wanted to go to one more pub, and I wanted another drink. 


Last we went to a unique bar called Shimizu, where they have all kinds of alcoholic drinks, including fruit drinks they make themselves. The cool guy in charge of the bar was really friendly and talkative. 

drink on the rocks or with club soda

You can choose whether you want your drink on the rocks or with club soda, but I prefer to have mine with club soda. 

These are the jars of fruit infused alcoholic drinks

These are the jars of fruit infused alcoholic drinks they make themselves. 

yuzu citrus plum liquor

We had apple gin and yuzu citrus plum liquor, and both of them were not too sweet, but had the nice taste of the fruit but still had the taste of gin and plum liquor; a perfect drink after eating greasy food. 


Even though what we ordered was a place of tsukemono-pickles, we got this trendy-looking plate of vegetables: they had a slight taste of honey to them, and the way the sweetness goes with the sourness was just so good that I can say this was the best dessert of the day! 

This is a great bar in Kyoto

This is a great bar in Kyoto, and very welcoming for visitors from overseas (from Taiwan and Finland in this case) like us, and made us feel like we were locals ourselves! 

small corridor

In this small corridor, there are so many pubs, traditional and new, and the atmosphere is nostalgic but also sentimental. On Friday and Saturday nights you can’t find a free seat in the all of the pubs here, it’s so popular. Many people have a drink in one pub, and then move to the next, and enjoy a type of Yontomi Kaikan pub crawl. Now, to end this, it is time to say kampai! 

A comment from the staff
I have now been to all three of these deep places of learning in Kyoto, and I feel like it is hard to say which one of them I like the best. The best restaurant among them all has to be Teshima here at Yontomi Kaikan, and one of the most interesting bars to just have a drink would have to be Shimizu. But there is even more to Yontomi Kaikan than we had time to go to in one day, like a wine bar that only stocks Japanese wine and a Thai style izakaya. So, this, of course, means that we are going to Yontomi Kaikan again, and isn’t that the best kind of feeling a place like this can leave you?

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