Jo Social Sake bar is located in Ponto-cho, one of Kyoto’s five famous geisha districts. While these areas of the city—known as hanamachi (literally, “flower town”)—contain many traditional okiya (geisha houses), ochaya (tea houses) and cultural vocational schools with teachers who have been designated as Japanese Living National treasures. There are five hanamachi areas in Kyoto, referred to as gokagai (five hanamachi): Gion Kobu, Gion Higashi, Kamishichi-ken, Miyagawa-cho and Ponto-cho. Visiting these popular spots, you can see maiko (apprentice geisha) or geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) as you take a leisurely stroll through these famed historical neighborhoods nestled among rivers and streams. And in the evenings, after steeping yourself in ancient Japanese arts and culture, you can relax and unwind at places like Jo Social Sake Bar.
Many foreign tourists have enjoyed visiting Jo since it opened this past May and tasting its wide selection of sake (Japanese rice wine) and even trying on samurai costumes. Jo provides a variety of tipples, beer and fruit sake sourced from sake breweries across Japan. One popular item for foreign customers is the three-glass tasting flight (¥1,000) with each of the various sake explained by the knowledgeable serving staff.
Most of the staff at Jo’s speak English and they love nothing better than to introduce Kyoto and the city’s traditional drinking culture. The current manager trained as a maiko and became a geiko in the Gion district. She is more than happy to talk about her experiences and even has photos to share with customers who are interested about her time learning the arts of a geisha.
The friendly crew are always attired in kimono, yukata (summer cotton kimono) or jinbei (traditional summer wear for men) and are full of the Japanese spirit of omotenashi (hospitality).
Jo was created is not only so foreign tourists can experience a wide variety of sake in a comfortable setting, but also to protect and promote Japan’s long-established breweries from closing down. According to a Development Bank of Japan report, domestic sales of sake and related products have dwindled over the past few decades. Previously, there were more than 2,000 breweries in Japan. As of 2011, though, that number is now just 1,260—and getting fewer. To help sustain this ancient tradition and craft, Jo exists to promote the finished—and delicious!—product of traditional artisan breweries from across the region and the country.
Kyoto is a must-see destination for tourists, and the number of foreign visitors has increased dramatically in recent years. A survey by the Kyoto municipal government has found, however, that many who visit this ancient Japanese capital also want to get out and enjoy some nightlife! After exploring the city’s traditional shrines, temples, cultural districts and shops—some people would like to relax and unwind with some good sake and friendly, easy-going hosts. If you plan to visit Kyoto, make a point to drop in and experience the convivial atmosphere of Jo Social Sake bar and really make the most of your visit.
Jo Social Sake Bar
Address: 126 Ishiya-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan 604-8002
Open: Mon-Fri 5-11:30 p.m. (L.O)
Sat-Sun & hols 3-11:30 p.m. (L.O)
Wednesday is closed