Streets of Kyoto

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Machiya storefronts on Shinmachi-dôri, near Nishiki-kôji.

Kyoto is one of the few cities in Japan to have named streets organized on a grid system. The city was ravaged by the wars of the Sengoku period, and largely rebuilt around 1590, under Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The city is framed on three sides by Kita-ôji in the north, Nishi-ôji in the west, and Higashi-ôji in the east.

In the southern half of the city, many of the major avenues are numbered, from Ichijô (First Avenue) in the center of the city, down to Jûjô (Tenth Avenue) in the south.

The following list details only a number of streets in the center of the city.

East-West Roads, listed from North to South

  • Sanjô-dôri (三条通, "Third Avenue") - The Sanjô Ôhashi (large bridge over the Kamogawa) marked the western end of the Tôkaidô.
  • Shijô-dôri (四条通, "Fourth Avenue") - The area around the intersection between Shijô and Kawaramachi is known as the site of the birth of kabuki, and remains a popular nightlife area today. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the north side of Shijô, especially near the center of the city, was lined with shops selling lacquerwares, lumber, fans, hardware, cloth & clothing, and so on.[1]
  • Gojô-dôri (五条通, "Fifth Avenue") - The Gojô Ôhashi (bridge over the Kamogawa) is said to have been the site of the first meeting between Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Benkei.

North-South Roads, listed from West to East

The Shijô-Muromachi area in the 1570s-1580s, as seen in a scale model at the National Museum of Japanese History
  • Horikawa-dôri (堀川通) is one of the major north-south avenues in the city, and runs largely parallel to the Horikawa River. In the Heian period, the street was called Horikawa-ôji, and divided into two - Higashi (East) Horikawa-dôri and Nishi (West) Horikawa-dôri - flanking the river, which was a major waterway for the transportation of goods and commodities. A lumber market, and surrounding neighborhood of lumber merchants' residences, was found alongside the Horikawa at that time. Today, much of the Horikawa has been placed underground.
  • Aburanokôji-dôri (油小路通, lit. "oil street") is one of the original roads from the Heian period; at that time, it was the longest north-south street in the city. Aburanokôji is famous for being the location of the original Honnô-ji, and connects central Kyoto to Fushimi.
  • Ogawa-dôri (小川通, lit. "stream street") was a new street constructed in 1590. It was named after the small stream which flows into the Horikawa River near Ichijô-dôri.
  • Nishinotôin-dôri (西洞院通) was known as Nishinotôin-ôji in the Heian period, and runs alongside the Nishinotôin River. Many dyers who made use of the river lived along this street. The street is also known for a local specialty paper, known as Nishinotôin-shi.
  • Kamanza-dôri (釜座通, lit. "pot/cauldron guild street") was one of the new streets constructed in 1590. It is named after the fact that many pot/cauldron-makers operated near the intersection of this street and Sanjô-dôri.
  • Shinmachi-dôri (新町通, lit. "new neighborhood street") was originally, in the Heian period, known as Machijiri-kôji. It was a major site of public markets and fairs. After Hideyoshi's reconstruction of the city, the street was renamed Shinmachi-dôri.
  • Koromonotana-dôri (衣棚通, lit. "clothes shelf street") was one of the new streets built in 1590; a number of shops specializing in producing monks' robes existed in the area, giving the street its name.
  • Muromachi-dôri (室町通) was known as Muromachi-kôji during the Heian period. It became the site of the palace/headquarters of the Ashikaga shogunate, thus giving the Muromachi period its name. The street was a major merchant street during that period, and was the first street to be restored after the devastation of the wars of the Ônin and Bunmei periods. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period, Muromachi-dôri was home to shops selling saké, tabi, and kimono, among other goods. Alleyways branching off from the street led to the homes of low-ranking samurai footmen and servants (komono, wakatô, and chûgen).[1]
  • Ryôgaemachi-dôri (両替町通, lit. "money-changers' district street") was among the new streets built in 1590. The mint (ginza) and exchange office (ryôgae-ya) were located on this road, along with other financial organizations, and continued to be a major financial district into the Edo period. During the Genroku period, the street lent its name to the "Ryôgaemachi lifestyle."
  • Karasuma-dôri (烏丸通) is one of the major north-south avenues in the city. It runs along the west side of the Kyoto Imperial Palace complex, and the east side of Higashi Honganji, cutting through Kyoto Station at Hachijô-dôri. The Karasuma Line, originally a street-level streetcar line, and now the chief north-south subway line in the city, runs along Karasuma-dôri. During the Heian period, the street was known as Karasumaru-koji, and was the site of many aristocratic mansions, as well as commoners' homes.
  • Kurumayachô-dôri (車屋町通, "cart shop neighborhood street") was one of the new streets built in 1590. It takes its name from the many wagon-drivers and cart-makers who were located in the area at the time.
  • Higashinotôin-dôri (東洞院通) was known as Higashi-no-tôin-ôji during the Heian period. Tôin being a term for the residences of retired emperors, the street takes its name from the presence of numerous such residences along its length, including the Kaya-in, Takakura-in, and Kazan-in.
  • Ainomachi-dôri (間之町通, lit. "in-between-district street") was one of the new streets built during Hideyoshi's reconstruction of the city; it was placed between Higashinotôin and Takakura-kôji, and so was called "in-between" street.
  • Takakura-dôri (高倉通) was known as Takakura-kôji during the Heian period, and took its name from the Takakura Palace (Takakura-den) built on the street by Fujiwara no Yorimichi. Various sorts of merchants, including oil sellers, pawnshops, and saké breweries were located on Takakura-kôji during the medieval period; the road, like most others, was devastated in the Sengoku period and rebuilt in 1590.
  • Sakaimachi-dôri (堺町通, lit. "boundary/border town street") marked the boundary between city and countryside when it was built around 1590, hence its name. South of Nijô-dôri, it was known as Zaimokuchô-dôri (lumber district street), and around Shijô, it was known as Kameyatsukinuke.
  • Yanagi-no-banba-dôri (柳馬場通, lit. "willow riding grounds street") was known as Madenokôji during the Heian period, and was renamed Yanagi-no-banba after its reconstruction around 1590. One theory for the street name points to the willows lining the area around the brothels near Nijô-dôri, while another suggests that willows were planted for horse inspections (umazoroe) during the festival of Hôkoku.
  • Tominokôji-dôri (富小路通) was constructed around 1590, and is named after the presence at that time of the homes of many court nobles.
  • Fuyachô-dôri (麩屋町通, lit. "street of the neighborhood of fu shops") was known as Tominokôji in the Heian period, and was the site of many aristocratic mansions. After being rebuilt in the 1590s, it was renamed Fuyachô after the many tofu shops there.
  • Gokômachi-dôri (御幸町通) was one of the streets first built in the 1590s. It takes its name from Hideyoshi having passed down it on his way to the Imperial Palace, or, according to other theories, from the Emperor having passed along it at some point.
  • Teramachi-dôri (寺町通, lit. "temple district street") runs alongside the east side of the Imperial Palace grounds. It was known as Higashi-kyôgoku-ôji in the Heian period, and when the city was being reconstructed in the 1590s, Hideyoshi ordered many of the city's temples to relocate here. Thus, large stretches of the street are today lined with temples. A stretch between Nijô and Shijô is a much more commercial area today, with cafés, art galleries, restaurants, and, for a short distance, a bustling covered shopping arcade.
  • Kawaramachi-dôri (河原町通) is one of the city's main north-south avenues. The road was constructed in the early years of the Edo period, when the river's banks were reconstructed, around the same time as the Takase Canal was completed. During the Edo period, the northern section of the road was called Mikuruma-michi, and the southern sections Suminokura-dôri. During the Meiji period, a streetcar line ran along Kawaramachi.
  • Kiyamachi-dôri (木屋町通, lit. "street of lumber shops district") runs alongside the Takase Canal. The road was constructed in the early years of the Edo period, at the same time as the canal. At the time, merchants trading in lumber, charcoal, firewood, and the like all gathered their products here, hence the name of the street. Today, it is a major nightlife district, and has many cafés and boutiques during the day.
  • Pontochô (先斗町) is a narrow pedestrian alley which is located between the west bank of the Kamogawa, and Kiyamachi-dôri, with which it runs roughly parallel. Established in the late 17th century, it remains a major geisha district today.

Other Notable Streets

  • 'Ninenzaka (二寧坂・二年坂, "two year incline") and Sannenzaka (産寧坂・三年坂, "three year incline") are two small streets in the Yasaka/Gion neighborhood on the east side of the city. Nineizaka is said to have gained its name simply from its proximity to Sannenzaka. The area was developed in the Edo period by Masuya Kihei, who received permission from the authorities in 1758 to begin building residences there. The neighborhood then took the name Masuya-chô. The current appearance of the street dates to the Taishô period, and is maintained as a nationally-designated area for townscape preservation.[2]


  • Plaques on-site, at the intersections of each street with Oike-dôri.
  1. 1.0 1.1 "Kyoto no machinami," gallery labels, National Museum of Japanese History.
  2. Plaques on-site.[1]