Sheep’s Public Cafe is a place I have been meaning to check out for a while. I kept seeing it as I cycled home from work and thinking to myself “Sheeps. Why Sheep’s?” The signboard outside says “Fish & Chips”, “Guinness” and looking at the exterior I imagined just another foreign style pub. Once inside though I was impressed by how bright and cheerful it is. The owners have abandoned traditional British or Irish pub trappings in favour of their own relaxed cafe style. And though they do serve Guinness and chips, and Bass Pale Ale, they also have a large selection of very nice Belgian beers including some on tap. And why is it called Sheep’s? Well, the two handsome young fellas who run it, Sawano Takehiko and Yokoyama Naoki, were both born in the Year of the Sheep. Simple really.
Photos by mewby.
Takehiko worked for a time as a regular salaryman before jacking it in and getting a job in an Irish pub in Hirakata. Then he and Naoki opened up their own bar Sheep’s in September of 2007, doing a lot of the interior work, such as the wooden counter and flooring themselves. They have created a pub with a uniquely fresh and young feel to it. There is a screen opposite the bar on which you can watch the football (Takehiko is a keen supporter of Newcastle United). And as of December 2008 there is also an art gallery in the basement, set up by a artist and neighbour Nika Feldman. The opening exhibition was not surprisingly a collection of works inspired by the theme: Sheep. Photos by mewby.
Sheep’s is a nice spot for a quiet drink and a tasty bite to eat. You can find it on the east side of Higashioji Dori a short walk south of Marutamachi. Here is a map.
Open everyday: 16:00 ~ 3:00 (the gallery closes at midnight).
In December 2008 my friend David Ewen and I (that’s us on the left) decided to go on an Irish pub crawl and see exactly what each place had to offer in terms of food, drink, music and the elusive craic. What follows is a list of the five pubs we visited, a summary of what we found there and a map to each location. For a fuller article, more pictures and directions click on the name of each pub. However, before I continue, I must say if you are only in Kyoto for a short time you shouldn’t be wasting precious time in Irish pubs at all, so stop reading now and go somewhere Japanese instead. This article is for long term residents only!
Very popular with expats but has more character than your average chain pub. A good menu with plenty of vegetarian options. Irish music every week and jazz monthly. Six screens show major sporting events. The staff are very courteous and professional. Map.
A gastro-pub specialising in micro-brew beers, they even have a chocolate flavored beer! Stunning views over the river Kamo and the city. Very personable staff and a very likeable and chatty owner the house chef, Tadg. Map.
Not the cosiest pub (perhaps because of it’s long, narrow interior) but with friendly staff and a good mix of Japanese and foreign punters. Excellent local musicians play Irish music here Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Map at the bottom of this link.
The first Irish pub to open in Kyoto back in 2000, Field is all about the music. Irish music sessions are held twice a week and there is a recording and practice studio upstairs. Mostly Japanese punters here. It’s a nice place for a quiet pint. Map
My personal favorite. Wonderful Irish style home-cooked food with lots of organic veggies and vegetarian options. A cosy atmosphere and a very friendly owner. The live music schedule is interestingly eclectic. Map.
This is the fifth and final part of a series of posts on Kyoto’s Irish pubs. Earlier this month my friend David Ewen and I went on a pub crawl of five Irish pubs in Kyoto to see what they had to offer in terms of food, beer, music and the craic. Tonight’s post is on…
Gnome opened in October 2007, which makes it the newest Irish pub in town. It’s also my favorite. I like the cosy, home-like atmosphere and I might be just imagining things but I think the Guinness tastes best here too. Yuko, the owner is a friendly, chatty, charming lady of many talents; musical, culinary and professional. She already had her own business before opening Gnome, and in addition to managing an accessory and craft shop upstairs from the pub, she also does all the cooking downstairs as well! The menu is wonderful. I love the colcannon – a simple dish of cabbage, potatoes, butter and pepper. Yuko gets the balance just right and served up with the best soda bread I’ve tasted in Kyoto it’s just lovely. “How is it you make such great soda bread?” I asked her. Turns out she gets the oatmeal from Ireland. Yuko loves cooking and pays a lot of attention to her ingredients; the water is from Kyushu and packed with healthy minerals and the vegetables are organic. There are a lot of vegetarian options on the menu too. Yuko and her husband are both musicians and played together in a rock band in the past covering artists like The Band and Neil Young. However, on a visit to Ireland five or six years ago they fell in love with Irish music and also with the warm and friendly atmosphere of Irish pubs. Now Gnome’s interestingly eclectic live music schedule reflects their varied musical tastes. You can see a short video of a recent performance by the band Baobab here. Here are some pictures:
Quiet during the week, Gnome gets livelier at weekends – and during musical events, you can’t move! The clientele is varied too: families, musicians, salarymen and sometimes foreign chaps like me. Why the name? Well, Gnome is in the basement and gnomes as you know live underground. Gnome is situated a short walk north of Oike on the west side of Kawaramachi in the basement of the SSS building. Look out for the yellow sign. Here is a handy map.
Opens Weekdays 17:00〜25:00
Happy Hour: 17:00~20:00 (unless there are events)
This is the fourth in a series of posts on Kyoto’s Irish pubs. Earlier this month my friend David Ewen and I went on a pub crawl of five Irish pubs in Kyoto to see what they had to offer in terms of food, beer, music and the craic. Tonight’s post is on…
Field is the oldest Irish pub in Kyoto having opened in the year 2000. Previously the owner, Suzaki Kazuhiko, ran a cafe and gallery here and Irish music was just a hobby for him. “At that time, I had no idea there was such a thing as an Irish pub,” he told me. But on learning that such places existed he decided to open up his own. It was a bold step in the dark for him and one that was motivated purely out of love for the music. He wanted to create a place where that music could be shared and amazingly, within the space of a year he was rewarded with visits from top Irish musicians such as Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine and Altan . You can still see their signed bodhrans and photographs lining the walls.
Music really is the main thing here. I don’t rate the food much. It will fill you but that’s all. Field isn’t aiming for the culinary heights of gastropub like Mc Loughlin’s. But Field is a nice place for a quiet pint of Guinness and on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 21:00 – 23:00 they have Irish music sessions for local musicians which create a wonderful atmosphere. When David and I went, they were really kicking it! Here are some pictures:
I asked Suzaki-san if he was worried by the increasing number of competing Irish pubs in town, and he said he was, but actually I don’t think he has anything to be worried about. For one thing Field has a different clientele, the regular customers being largely Japanese. And also the emphasis on encouraging local musicians and the presence of the music studio on the 3rd floor still gives Field its unique edge over its rivals. For a long time Field was my own personal favorite, and I still like it but recently my primary affections have been stolen by another pub – which I shall tell you about tomorrow!
Field is on the north side of Nishiki Dori mid-way between Higashinotoin and Karasuma. Here is a map.
Pub Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday 17:00 – 2:00 am
Friday & Saturday 17:00 – 5:00 am
Lunchtime Opening: 12:00 – 14:30
3F Rehearsal & Recording Studio: 090-3702-0369 (14:00 – 2:00 am)
Update August 2010: The Hill of Tara is now under new management and named “Dublin”.
In Search of … the Craic Part 3
This is the third in a series of posts on Kyoto’s Irish pubs. Earlier this month my friend David Ewen and I went on a pub crawl of five Irish pubs in Kyoto to see what they had to offer in terms of food, beer, music and the craic. Tonight’s post is on…
Irish pub and restaurant The Hill of Tara works hard at it’s Irish credentials. The owner Hanai Yoko, out of a love of Irish culture had the entire pub designed and built by an Irish design company. Three days a week they have live Irish music and traditional Irish dance is taught here too. The pub works closely with Irish Network Japan to organise Kyoto’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. And the menu features authentic Irish meals such as Irish stew, whisky cured salmon, mussels, soda bread… Ah, soda bread! I have this idea that you can tell a lot about an Irish pub from it’s soda bread, so I ordered some with a nice red chutney. This is how it looks: Looks good, eh? And as bread it tasted good. But as soda bread it was a little too light for me and not quite sweet enough. Something was missing. Some secret ingredient. And for me the pub feels the same way. It’s nice enough as a pub, but the awkward narrow shape of the building seems to take something from the vibe and it doesn’t quite feel as warm and as cosy as an Irish pub should…
That aside however, there are still many things to like about The Hill of Tara. One is the music. There is live Irish music here, played by excellent local musicians every Friday (from 8.30 pm), Saturday (from 9.00 pm) and Sunday (from 6.30 pm). Another is the mix of people you can meet here, both foreign and Japanese. Whereas other pubs are clearly dominated by one group or another, The Hill of Tara somehow strikes a balance between the cosmopolitan and the local. Finally, David and I both enjoyed talking with Nina the friendly barmaid. It’s the staff that make a place tick really, isn’t it? Here are some pictures for your perusal:
And here is a video of musicians Leslie Denniston and Taro Kishimoto: Another musician who regularly performs here is Felicity Greenland, and you can get a free download of her and Leslie singing The Grey Funnel Line here: LINKThe Hill of Tara is situated on the north side of Oike a short walk east of Kawaramachi. There is a map on their website at the bottom of the page: LINK
Open: 17:00 – 24:00 ( till 1:00 am on Friday & Saturday)
Open for lunch: 12:00 – 17:00 (Saturday, Sunday and holidays only) Tel: 075-213-3330 Next post: Field Related articles:Mc Loughlin’s The Gael
Irish music at Cafe Woodnote
This is the second of a series of posts on Kyoto’s Irish pubs. Earlier this month my friend David Ewen and I went on a pub crawl of five Irish pubs in Kyoto to see what they had to offer in terms of food, beer, music and the craic. Tonight’s post is on…
Unfortunately when David and I arrived here, the kitchen was closed, so we were too late to sample any of owner and resident chef Tadg Mc Loughlin’s famed cooking. I shall have to go back for that another time. However, this did mean Tadg was free for a bit of a chat. And chat we did as he regaled us with stories, lessons in Gaelic and some very sweet tasting tequila (He’s a bit of an expert when it comes to tequila you see). Now, Tadg first came to Japan a good 8 years ago after seeing an ad in his local Spar in Limerick that read (and this is no lie): “Wanted barman in Japan”. Tadg was at a time in his life when he was ready to try something new, so months later he was working as a chef in The Hill of Tara (see tomorrow’s post) and then The Gael (see yesterday’s post) and two and a half years ago he opened up his own place. I pointed out to him that there are a lot of Irish pubs in Kyoto these days. What did he think was Mc Loughlin’s unique characteristic? “It’s the only Irish pub in Kyoto.” he said. And he was at pains to point out that this wasn’t just because it’s the only bar owned and run by an Irishman. It’s more than that, he said, it’s about attitude; the personal touch and attention to detail. And indeed I can vouch that any customer coming into Tadg’s bar is given a real Irish welcome, and henceforth treated like family not just by Tadg, but by the staff he picks too. The staff here, he said have to be “more than themselves”; straightforward but friendly and have a genuine interest in the customer. Well, Tadg and his staff are certainly very likeable but how is his pub? The first thing that strikes you is the bank of windows with fantastic views over the river and city. Then there is the spaciousness of the pub which makes it an excellent venue for weddings and parties. However, this spaciousness does take away a little from the snug, cosy feeling you might find in other pubs, so Tadg plans to have the place renovated in 2009. He has big dreams for the place, planning to transform it into a gastropub specializing in local micro-brew beers of which he already has two Minoh beers on tap. It’s a good space with a lot of potential and he’s a good chap – I wish him luck. You can check out the events page on the Mc Loughlin’s website for upcoming music events here, and the mouth watering menu here. Here are some pictures:
To find Mc Loughlin’s walk straight up Kiyamachi from Sanjo, before you get to Oike you should see the Empire building on your right. Mc Loughlin’s is on the 8th floor. Here is a most convenient map.
Open: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday–6pm to12am
Friday & Saturday–6pm to Late
CLOSED on Tuesday
Telephone / Fax 075-212-6339
Earlier this month my friend David Ewen and I went on a pub crawl of Kyoto’s Irish pubs to see what they had to offer. Though neither of us are particularly keen on the “gaijin pub” scene, we both occasionally feel a hankering for Irish beer and I especially for traditional Irish music. Over the next few days I am going to post about each of the pubs we visited and tell you what we found there. Tonight’s post is on…
Formerly named Tadg’s and renamed the The Gael in 2007, this is probably the most popular Irish pub with the expat community. In fact, once you walk into this Irish style pub and find yourself surrounded by foreign faces, you could be forgiven for feeling like you aren’t in Japan at all. The staff are professional and courteous and they have an excellent menu with lots of veggie options for our vegan friends. David and I both enjoyed our meals which you can see pictured below. However, I do have one gripe: there’s no soda bread on the menu! And when I asked for it I was offered a baguette! A baguette! What kind of self-respecting Irish pub doesn’t sell soda bread, I wonder! Well my one gripe aside, they do have a good live music schedule in their favour; Irish music every Friday from 8:00 pm, Jazz every 3rd Sunday and an Open Mic Night on the first Wednesday of the month. You can check out the events schedule by clicking here, and see some music videos on this page here. The Gael also doubles as a sports bar and has six screens to keep the punters happy. Overall, thanks to the music, the food and excellent service I’d say The Gael is a cut above your average “gaijin bar” and does a fair job of bringing a little bit of Irish culture to Japan. But they ought to make some soda bread. Here are some pictures:
To find The Gael, from Shijo bridge cross to the east side of Kawabata and keep walking up Shijo. You’ll see an opening on your first right through the Otoh building. Go through there and look up to your right for the Irish flag in the second floor window. Here is a very handy map. Open: 5:00 pm-1:00am Sunday to Thursday, 5pm till later on weekends. Tel: 075-525-0680
I had my supper at Woodnote last night; a big plate of sarnies and two bottles of Guinness. And they were tasty. I really like this place. There are a lot of bars and cafes in Kyoto that are dedicated to a particular kind of music; jazz, soul, rock or blues… and finding these places always gives me a real kick. But Woodnote is something else. It’s a “99.9%” (says the owner) organic cafe, a gallery (yes, you may rent the walls for ￥1000 an hour), and a live Irish music venue (sessions every Monday!). Also Shibutani-san (the Master) does very good sandwiches (￥550 and no meat!). Oh, and if you want to learn more about all those big crazy birds you regularly see wheeling over or wading in the Kamogawa, they have a bird-watching club you can join too.
What Woodnote is perhaps best known for is Irish music and the Master himself plays the fiddle. I asked him how he first got into Irish music. He told me, gesturing at all the vinyl records behind him, that throughout his youth he had always had a big thing for bluegrass. Then later when he discovered the roots of bluegrass, he naturally took a shine to Irish music. How he got into playing music goes like this: a customer brought back a tin whistle as a souvenir from Ireland. He teaches himself to play it and plays it for about two years. Then one day he is cycling by an antiques store and he spies a fiddle. It’s in good condition but the price is a mere ￥18,000. Well, that’s fate, isn’t it? He bought it and taught himself to play (purely by ear mind you). And here’s how he sounds ten years later:
Now, the master will say bashfully that he is 下手, or “poor” at playing. But I think it’s wonderful he can play like that when he only started in his 40s and he never had a teacher! But then, says the Master, everyone who plays here learned that way.
As mentioned before, every Monday evening there is an Irish music session here, and on the 23rd of this month (Sunday) there will be a live performance of musicians from all over Kansai from 2:00 till 5:00 pm followed by another session later that evening. To find Woodnote, go east on Kitaoji Dori untill you reach the Eizan dentetsu line and then turn left onto Takahara Dori. Woodnote is just a little ways up there on the right. Or you can walk south for about 10 minutes from Ichijoji Station. Here is a map.
Opening hours: 12:30 – 23:00 (closed on Tuesdays). Tel:075-722-9302
November 24th Update:I have posted two videos from the above mentioned session on my journal here.
Gojo Guesthouse is a clean and friendly English-speaking hostel conveniently located on Gojo Dori and so not too far from either Kyoto station or the town centre. A short walk north of here towards Gion, will take you into some of the traditional machiya streets of old Kyoto, and it also happens to be a very good maiko-spotting area. A short hike east will take you up to Kiyomizu-dera, one of Kyoto’s most famous tourist spots.
However, naturally, most back-packers are chiefly concerned with prices, so here goes:
A futon in either the men’s or ladies dormitory will cost you ￥2500 A twin room for two people: ￥6000 yen A triple Room for three people: ￥9900 yen or ￥12000 yen for four.
Futons and linen are provided and each guest receives a drink ticket (worth 300 yen) for each night they stay that they can use in the café downstairs. There are also showers, laundry facilities, a kitchen, a common room with TV, free internet access and a bicycle rental service for ￥５００ a day. Light meals and cheap drinks are available in the Gojo Guesthouse Cafe from 13:00 ~ 22:00 pm, and (most importantly), they also have Guinness on tap.
Reception is open from 8:00 am ~ 22:00 pm. Check in time is from 15:00 ~ 22:00pm. There is no curfew. Tel: 075-525-2299. Please note that credit cards are not accepted and you will have to pay on arrival. You can find a map with full directions on the website here: Gojo Guesthouse Website There is also an Ａｎｎｅｘ close to the Yasaka shrine and thus not far from the main bus routes between Kyoto station and the north of the city. Please check the Ａｎｎｅｘ website for differing rooms, prices and reception hours. Tel: 075-525-2298