Unlike the other entries from Japan, this one will be a bit shorter as Kyoto was a place that we wanted to visit more, but ended up spending half a day in. It was an awesome half a day, but this is by no means authoritative. Of course, that won’t stop me from talking about it as if I know something more than the sliver I do actually know.
My conceptions of what Kyoto was came from all of the multiple YouTube videos, travel shows, articles, and guide books. What I didn’t see anywhere in those sources were the more modern, and equally interesting stuff to look at in Kyoto rather than the big temples, ancient shrines, beautiful vistas, undeniable history and uniquely Japanese approach to life. While history is important, it’s not often what I’m looking for in a city. I’m looking for a record store, a music scene and good food. These are the signposts for a good city, in my opinion. It doesn’t necessarily have to be punk, but that is an excellent bonus.
If you’re looking for a broader sense of what I perceived Japan to be, check out the General Admission Traveller article on Tokyo, which had more general impressions of Japan and some more in-depth tips for traveling in Japan.
Looking online and at the Osaka Record Store pamphlet (Kyoto is a mere 30 minutes by Shinkansen or Bullet Train) there’s no punk specific record store like Punk and Destroy. However there’s a few that sell punk stuff. I’m more interested in used, and while our trip to Kyoto was not thoroughly planned, I did do a map. The map was incomplete at the time, and is likely to still be underwhelming. Feel free to copy it and add to it yourself.
As you can see, Kyoto is spread out if you’re on foot. The subway is not as frequent as Tokyo or Osaka, but does the job. We ended up hanging around Nikishi Market which isn’t far from the main station. Luckily, most of the record stores are clumped together (although like all record stores in Japan, are not often easy to find and are likely on the second or third floors). The two record stores we hit was Art Rock No. 1 and Happy Jack, which seemed to be just around the corner from one another. Neither were punk focused, but yielded some records.
First, Art Rock No. 1, which you can imagine was well stocked with prog rock, psyche, modern indie rock and some punk. I ended up grabbing a Friction LP, and pondered getting High Rise, but ended up going without. Again, like the record stores in Tokyo, not situated at street level, but handy personal-sized elevator to the third floor ejects you into a lobby with the record store on the right. Stereotypical record store almost, which may have been eerily like home to me in some way, down to the jazz playing while you browse. Anyways, it was neat to travel thousands of miles from home, but still have that familiar record store feeling. There’s something about super narrow aisles, records stacked in boxes two to three high that is comforting. Maybe a regretful decision not to buy the High Rise off the wall.
Next up was Happy Jack, which despite some thoughts it might be a dead end, it actually turned up some early Kyoto related flexis that were somewhat obscure. Not particularly cheap, but decent noisy punk. A decent shop with a good selection of stuff if you weren’t laser focused on punk and hardcore particularly – I saw a lot of two-tone ska, lots of Mod related 60’s stuff and a whole whack of releases that were not in my zone of understanding. Also quite a few of the Mod revival releases from the early 80’s (Purple Hearts and the like). I’m sure if I dug I could’ve found more. Alas that was it for records for us. Regretfully, I didn’t get to 10000t, which seems to be the most punk focused shop. Bootsy’s and Jet Set (of which there’s a branch in Tokyo as well) seemed like good spots to hit if you have more than six or so hours to hit up spots.
I don’t know shit about venues in Kyoto other than what I’ve read on the internet – Socrates is the place to be. I didn’t see any shows there, obviously.
Well, we didn’t eat a full meal in Kyoto, but we did eat some stuff (sashimi, sliced fish and karaage, deep fried chicken) at Nikishi Market, and an apple and chocolate tart at a bakery off on one of the side streets. One of the things that we noticed almost immediately after getting to Japan was that it was incredibly easy to eat in a grazing pattern. Stop have a little snack, or bowl of ramen, then move on, eat a pastry at a cafe, and move on. Admittedly we ate the apple and chocolate tart later, and while North American tastes tend to the sweeter (or even too sweet), the apples were slightly sweet and tart; the chocolate bitter. In no way shape or form was it sweet like things are in Canada and the United States. Like elsewhere in Japan, we ate well and didn’t pay ridiculous prices. It was good.