Ponto-cho (先斗町)

Ponto-cho, located in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City, is a hanamachi ('flower town,' or geisha district) that lies between the Kamo-gawa River (Yodo-gawa River system) and Kiyamachi-dori Street.

Its original land feature was a sandbank in the Kamo-gawa River, but, reclamation work was conducted as part of bank protection work during the early Edo period, and the place came to be called Shin-kawaramachi-dori Street.

Ponto-cho as an entertainment district started from the establishment of Chaya (Teahouse) and inns, and was already controlled repeatedly because geisha and shogi (prostitutes) came to reside here, but Ponto-cho was recognized as a place for migrant workers working at "Nijo Shinchi" in Kawabata Nijo, and became independent during the early Meiji period.

The first performance of Kamogawa Odori (Kamo River Dance) was held in 1872, and Ponto-cho bloomed as a hanamachi. The school of dance belongs to Onoe school.

Current situation
Ponto-cho is a narrow stone-paved street running between the Kamo-gawa River and Kiyamachi-dori Street from Sanjo-dori Hitosuji Kudaru to Shijo-dori Street. In addition to commercial buildings peculiar to a hanamachi, general restaurants also stand side by side. The maintenance of cityscape is threatened by laws such as the Fire Service Act, and furthermore, the deteriorating condition of public safety in the neighboring town, Kiya-machi, causes a negative effect on the hanamachi. Shops on the east of the street face the Kamo-gawa River, and many restaurants among them lay out the Noryo Yuka (wooden platform over the dry riverbed for enjoying cool breezes). The Ponto-cho Kaburen-jo Theater, big building located at the north end, is reflected on the surface of the Kamo-gawa River.

Origin of the name
Some people say that the place name, Ponto, derives from a Portuguese word "ponto" ("point" in English).

However, other people say that, since Ponto-cho is located between the Kamo-gawa River and the Takase-gawa River (Kyoto Prefecture), upon taking its landscape as Tsutsumi (levee), the name derives from a sound of Tsuzumi (hand drum), 'Pon,' using an analogy between Tsutsumi and Tsuzumi.

Saiseki-dori Street

Even if a street (Shimogyo Ward) running from Shijo-dori Street to the southern part is called Ponto-cho, most people can recognize the name, but, the street has another official name: Saiseki-dori Street, and the entertainment district lies along the street. A stone fence built to prevent the overflow of the Kamo-gawa River still remains here.

Major events

Shigyo-shiki (opening ceremony)

Setsubun (Bean Throwing Night)

Kamogawa Odori from May 1 to May 24

Special Traditional Joint Performances by Five Hanamachi of Kyoto

Gion Matsuri Festival

Hassaku (an event in which geisha visit their teachers and teahouses to thank them) on August 1

Suimei-kai (dance performance by geisha in Ponto-cho)

Kaomise soken (kabuki viewing by a group of geisha in the hanamachi)

Kotohajime (an event in which geisha visit their teachers and teahouses to thank them for their support in the year and for continued support in the new year)

[Original Japanese]