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Ponto-chō in the morning
Ponto-chō in the night

Ponto-chō (先斗町?) is a Hanamachi district in Kyoto, Japan, known for geiko and maiko and home to many geiko houses and traditional tea houses. Like Gion, Ponto-chō is famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment.


The name Ponto-chō is said to be a portmanteau of the Portuguese word "ponte" (bridge) and the Japanese word "-chō" meaning town, block or street.[citation needed]


Ponto-chō centres around one long, narrow, cobbled alley running from Shijō-dōri to Sanjō-dōri, one block west of the Kamo River (Kamo-gawa). This is also the traditional location of the start of kabuki, and a statue of Okuni still stands on the opposite side of the river. The district crest is a stylized water plover or chidori.

Cultural features[edit]

Geiko and maiko have existed in Ponto-chō since at least the 16th century, as have prostitution and other forms of entertainment. Today the area, lit by traditional lanterns at night, contains a mix of very expensive restaurants — often featuring outdoor riverside dining on wooden patios — geisha houses and tea houses, brothels, bars, and cheap eateries.

The area is also home to the Ponto-chō Kaburenjō Theatre at the Sanjō-dōri end of the street. This theatre functions as a practice hall for geiko and maiko and twice a year since the 1870s Kyoto geiko and maiko perform the Kamogawa Odori — Kamogawa river dancing, a combination of traditional dance, kabuki-like theatre, singing and the playing of traditional instruments — there, offering a rare chance for ordinary people to see performances by real geiko and maiko.

An American Liza Dalby became a geiko in Ponto-chō during college studies and later wrote a popular book favorable to the community there.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dalby, Liza (1983). Geikoa. Berkeley: University Of California Press. ISBN 0-965-88126-1. 

External links[edit]