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.