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Kyoto City Info

Kyoto is located in the central section of the island of Honshū. It covers an area of 828 square kilometres and serves as home to 1.5 million people. For over a thousand years, the city was the Imperial capital of Japan. It is currently the capital of Kyoto Prefecture and is renowned for its stifling summer nights. It is also the only major Japanese metropolis which still features a profusion of pre-war architecture like the machiya (traditional townhouses). In a nutshell, Kyoto is old Japan with massive temples, serene shrines, sublime gardens and geisha dashing to secret liaisons.

Kyoto Red Light District

Kyoto has two red-light areas.

  • Kiyamachi – a historical street that runs between Kiyamachi Nijō and Kiyamachi Shichijō on the eastern section of the Takase River. The area is teeming with soaplands, pink salons, fashion health spas and all-you-can-cum-in-thirty-minutes blowjob venues. If you continue north on Kiyamachi, there are several Love Hotels and rooms rented by the hour.

  • Pontocho – latter is a narrow alley that runs from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, a block west of the Kamogawa River. It is too small for vehicle traffic and is packed with bars, tea houses, and restaurants.

For those who don’t know how to read Japanese, the telltale signs of the RDLs include bright neon signs with numbers that indicate cost and time; a male tout often donning a white shirt and tie; and men entering and exiting quickly, usually with their heads down.

History of the RLD

Japan has a long and storied relationship with the sensual arts and the oldest profession in the world. Until 1958, when the government outlawed prostitution, virtually every Japanese city had red light areas. Kyoto’s most popular akasen or yukaku (both terms signify a red light area) was Shimabara. It still exists but today but there’s nothing sleazy about it. However, several of the former red light areas have reinvented themselves, often having run-ins with authorities and official laws and statutes.

In the past, a leisurely walk from tree-lined Kiyamachi to the shopping stalls along Kawaramachi Street was an exercise in professing not to notice the mini-sex establishments that were confined to these alleys. Middle-aged touts stand in front of each brothel to invite prospective clients. Today, they have moved to Kiyamachi and the aforementioned fashion health spas, blowjob factories, pink salons, and soaplands have spilled out of the streets and took over many of what used to be bars and restaurants. At least seven sex establishments currently dot the eastern section of the street south of Shijo all the way up to the Kiyamachi-Shijo intersection.

How to Find the RLD

  • Kiyamachi – runs between Kiyamachi Nijō and Kiyamachi Shichijō on the eastern section of the Takase River that can be reached by taking Kyoto city bus No. 4, 17 or 205.

  • Pontocho – runs from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, a block west of the Kamogawa River. The closest bus stop is Shijo Kawaramachi, while the nearest train stations are Kawaramachi and Shijo.

Stay Safe in the RLD

Kyoto is a safe city and even the prostitutes rarely try to steal their clients’ possessions. However, if you’re meeting someone who is a total stranger, don’t disclose any type of personal information or any other important details. Always use a condom even if HIV/AIDS is low-risk in Japan’s sex trade. Bear in mind that prostitution is illegal and will be punished by law if discovered, so be smart, be safe and be discreet. Prostitution is defined as intercourse involving penetration of the female genital, so the “everything but” approach is in full effect in most establishments to avoid any legal issues.

Kyoto Adult Entertainment

Prostitution has existed in Kyoto throughout the city’s history. The adult entertainment industry is booming, with ‘Soapland’ resorts becoming increasingly popular. These bathhouses/sex parlours offer services with escorts with whom clients will be covered in lubricant then massaged to orgasm. The district of Kiyamichi serves well to this type of venue, although foreign clients often have a hard time getting in. If you don’t know how to speak the Japanese language, it is advised to have a local host to vouch for you. Then there are also the red-light districts with a menagerie of brothels, strip clubs, and erotic massage parlours.

Adult Cinemas

  • Senbon Nikkatsu – the lone surviving adult movie theater in Kyoto located west of Senbon Dori and Kamichojamachi Dori. It is a holdover from the golden era of Japanese cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, but at some point, it made the transition from showing first-run films to porn. Today, the theater’s exterior is draped with posters of partially nude ladies portraying varying degrees of ecstasy. Majority of the patrons are middle-aged men who park their bicycles in front of the movie house.

Street Prostitution

Finding sex on the streets of Kyoto is a more discreet undertaking than in other Asian nations, but it is not impossible. Majority of street hookers hand out what appears like a baseball card that contains a photo, phone number, and pricing/agency details. The cards are either handed directly to a prospective client or left in bars, clubs, and pubs within the red light district.

Kyoto Clubs and Brothels

Swinger Clubs

Most swinging activity in Kyoto is organized online. However, it is possible to find a swinger-oriented club in the Gion sex scene, but then again your best chance is going directly online on sites like The Adult Hub Kyoto. Note that most of these clubs are exclusive to members or are strictly by invitation, and because of the nature of the gatherings, all guests are expected to observe a certain degree of discretion and confidentiality. Moreover, aggressive or overindulgence in alcohol or illicit drugs won’t be tolerated so everyone can feel comfortable.

Kyoto Nightlife

The nightlife scene in Kyoto is largely dominated by chic bars and clubs that offer varying atmosphere and ambiance; an extensive selection of beers, wines, and spirits; impressive local and international cuisines; and all sorts of music genre. The venues attract both local and international acts. The most popular include the

  • A Bar
  • Ace Café
  • Club Metro
  • Club World
  • Lab Tribe
  • Jittoku
  • Live Spot Rag
  • UrBanguild
  • Ishimaru Shoten.

In recent years, dance theaters have increased in popularity as shown by the high ticket demand. The Gion Kaikan Theater and the Miyagawa-cho Kaburen-jo Theater are both fantastic venues to witness traditional geisha and maiko dancing. It is also worth visiting the Minamiza Kabuki Theater which is regarded as the birthplace of kabuki, one of the most popular traditional performing art forms in Japan. It combines music and dance with high drama in an extremely stylized manner. Visitors also enjoy going to concerts, rakugo (traditional comic storytelling) performances, classic and modern western musicals and plays.

Kyoto LGBT

Japanese culture and major religions don’t have a history of hostility towards gays and lesbians. In fact, a majority of Japanese citizens are in favour of accepting the concept of homosexuality. A recent poll revealed that 54% of the respondents agreed that homosexuality must be accepted by society while 36% disagreed. Although the poll was conducted on the national level, the results and the situation in Kyoto is pretty much the same.

General Attitude Towards Gays

Kyoto has a sizable gay community and there are several establishments where gays congregate, but they are not in the open with the exception of the monthly ‘Diamonds are Forever’ drag night at Club Metro. You’ll need to do some research and digging to discover the gay venues because there is usually no sign on the outside that a certain establishment is not just another Japanese-style bar. Moreover, there is a more active scene in Osaka so many of the gay residents of Kyoto make the trip there. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that gays are generally welcome and accepted in the city. Reports of aggression or discrimination against them are rare.

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