The Legend of UrBANGUILD

Let me tell you a story, about a place called UrBANGUILD… It’s a kind of fairytale, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And it all began in another place. A place that I like to call cafe underpants.

The 1928 Building. This art deco fantasy houses a (currently) very popular cafe in the basement. Fans of UrBANGUILD might sense a certain familiarity in the interior design.

Once upon a time there was an honest carpenter named Jiro. One day, Jiro was hired by a man of property to design and build a cafe.  Jiro was a very fine carpenter and designer, and a very hard worker too, and so in no time at all he created a very fine cafe indeed. The owner of the cafe was very pleased with the work that Jiro had done and asked him to manage his new establishment. They called it independants. Under Jiro’s stewardship this cafe independants became a very special place: a place where musicians and artists could meet and freely experiment, and it became a true centre of the Kyoto avant garde! Unfortunately it didn’t make any money… and naturally the owner of the cafe began to worry. Jiro’s passion was for art, not money – but a cafe can’t continue if it doesn’t make a profit! Sadly the owner told Jiro that he had to go. In the real world, that’s just the way things are. Sadly, we just don’t live in fairytales…

ryotaro is the booking manager at UrBANGUILD. He told me this story, so I know it's true.

But then something magical happened. Every single member of staff at cafe independants told Jiro that they wanted to continue working with him. They wanted to recreate the same kind of special artistic centre with him in another place. They pooled all their funds together and they found and built another cafe/bar/performance centre on Kiyamachi. They called it UrBANGUILD (!) and having put all their money into it – well they endured some difficult times! But today, that place, that centre devoted to performance and art and music and the free pursuit of self expression is THRIVING! Well, to be honest, it still doesn’t make much money. Jiro, talented and hardworking carpenter that he is, supports it with his own income. And the staff still work there because they value what they do, not for any misguided notions of profit.

But UrBANGUILD is thriving, because it is ALIVE! Over the last twelve months or so, I have visited and revisited this place and I am ADDICTED. For one thing, I love UrBANGUILD for it’s acceptance.

Something very special indeed - click the image to read more about this one.

You  get some acts here that are mediocre,  others that could be interesting but are a little self-involved, and you get some TERRIBLE acts here too! But they are all accepted – and applauded. And then, pretty much every time, you get something very, very special indeed. Something you simply wouldn’t see anywhere else. Because only a place like UrBANGUILD would allow it to happen.

Another reason I love UrBANGUILD, is the inclusive sense of community. It’s easy to make friends here. Come regularly and some faces will become familiar to you – and you to them. You will become drawn into discussion. You will become part of the scene.

Tomorrow, UrBANGUILD is throwing a New Year’s party entitled “Velvet Moon”. I invite you to attend. There are some Deep Kyoto favorites performing: the dancers Bridget Scott and 袋坂ヤスオ, accordionist ryotaro and the mad scientist of sound mr. Sseeaann Rrooee.

Bridget Scott

And then there are other more intriguing things like Karikatura, a “gypsy, reggae, rumba, flamenco, ska, world, groove, band” from Brooklyn. Here are the details! Check it out! Enjoy!


The Perfomers:

Karikatura (gypsy, reggae, rumba, flamenco, ska, world, groove)



Bridget Scott (dance)

Yangjah (dance) with
Jerry Gordon

Sseeaann Rrooee (sound artist)

袋坂ヤスオ (dance) & ryotaro (accordion)

OPEN: 18:00 / START: 19:00
Tickets in advance:1500 yen (includes one drink)

I almost forgot to mention, they do good izakaya style grub here too. The vegetarian curry is awesome!

On the door: 2000 yen


To find it, from Sanjo Dori go down Kiyamachi Dori (this is the narrow street running alongside Takase stream) UrBANGUILD is on the east side (left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo) after approximately 150 metres. It’s on the 3rd floor of New Kyoto Building – access by elevator or stairs. Here’s a map.
Tel: 075-212-1125  Facebook page here.

4 responses to “The Legend of UrBANGUILD

  1. Michael Lambe

    Thank you!

  2. great playful little background piece for a place that the angels of the avant guard are making space for in their history books.

    True true truly one of the best spaces to play in Kansai, or anywhere for that matter. excellent care to sound and atmosphere, and the audiences listen like it’s their church. a genuine flow of care and respect to and from the stage.

  3. Thanks Jerry. I hope to see you play there soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *