Alleys in Rokuhara-gakku

People who love and protect their alleys.

Text : Kenji Tsuchihashi / Photo : Takahiro Mitsukawa

  Have you ever heard about the area called Rokuhara? This is the area that had a headquarter of the Taira clan which was at the height of their prosperity in Heian era, and Rokuhara Tandai, which was a branch office of shogunate, was established in Kamakura era, so that this area had been very important for Japanese politics in its history. Moreover, at the bottom of Mt. Amigadagamine from Gojo-zaka to Imakumano, it was a graveyard called ‘Toribeno’ in Kyoto. Dead bodies crossed Kamogawa River and on the way to Toribeno, they had a Buddhist funeral service at Rokudochinno-ji Temple in Rokuhara area. Under the circumstances, the gate in front of Rokudochinno-ji Temple and Saifuku-ji Temple was considered as the entrance between the present world and the other world, and also called as ‘Rokudo-no Tsuji’. It is always crowded with people when we welcome the ancestors and spirits at ‘Rokudo Mairi’ in the Bon season.

  This area didn’t have a lot of damages from the war and didn’t even have a widened road plan, so that it still has traditional houses around and it is a kingdom of alleys which still has little back alleys and dead-ends. On the other hand, so many old wooden houses are crowded here and people started wondering how they can protect the city from every disaster seriously in this Rokuhara-gakku. Rokuhara Machizukuri Committee made a ‘map of community-based planning for disaster’ by walking around its area in order to know all the alleys and buildings inside. The percentage of little back alleys and the amount of them are counted and arranged carefully, and anti-earthquake and fire defense reinforcement are constructed on each tunnel alley, and moreover emergency evacuation doors are installed in order to connect between 2 dead-end alleys. Now I can see that people make an effort to take care of their own town by themselves.

  One of the unique projects they are working on now is to name each alley they have. In order to let people love their own area and to know where they live more, the committee asked and advertised whoever live in the area for the new name of the alleys, then ceramic nameplates, such as ‘Yumiya Yakushi-koji’, ‘Shogetsu-koji’ and ‘Mitsumori ichi roji’, were placed. Because it is quite different from the center of the city and has slopes everywhere, stairs come appear in the middle of alleys all of a sudden, and very long Zushi (alley that is not dead-end) is going to be found somewhere around, so that everything you come across will make you feel adventurous. Of course that they take care of their own protection from disasters, and also they take care of their own fine view on the alleys and they put enlightening posters around. I can feel that everyone who lives on this area has a great pride to take care their own town.

  After you walk around a lot and tired enough to sit somewhere around, then please stop by ‘Coffee&Lounge Beniyuki’. It is a hideaway coffee shop and locates on the alley of the south of Kennin-ji Temple coming from Yazaka Dori toward south. It has a traditional and quiet Japanese atmosphere in more than 90 year-old building. You can also see an impressive courtyard from a counter table. Since geisha and maiko comes here privately, there are so many Senjafuda (their business card) on top of the counter seat pillar. They have amazing kickshaws and everything is delicious such as home-made bread and black beans curry. By the way, they open a lounge at a night time.


<Coffee&Lounge Beniyuki>

ADDRESS : 572 Komatsu-cho Yazaka Dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City (MAP)

PHONE : +81(0)75-541-1311

HOURS : 11:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m. (L.O. 5:30 p.m.) Lounge starts from 7:00 p.m.

CLOSED : Monday