Kyoto may not have the same stadiums and arenas as Tokyo and Osaka, but this historic city has a unique, lively music scene of its own. Many of its bars and cafes host live music performances, providing intimate venues for many local, underground, and independent artists. Here are our five favorite spots for live music in the city.
A hip club popular with the younger generation, Metro is one of the best music venues in Kyoto, offering all genres of music by local and international artists. In recent years, it has expanded to become a gathering place for lovers of art of all kind, including film, literature, and visual art. Film screenings and lectures are often held there, so check their website for performance schedules.
A basement bar located just south of the University of Kyoto, Zac Baran is a veteran of the Kyoto live music bar scene. A popular hangout for folk from all walks of life – students and staff from the nearby university, doctors and nurses from the nearby clinic, and anyone who appreciates jazz and blues – legend has it that this basement bar was the gathering place of the Japanese Red Army, the party behind Japans’ communist revolution in the 1970s and 1980s. Regardless of its history, Zac Baran is a cool place to hang out..
Price: Budget Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 6:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
Looking for something more in tune with Kyoto’s historic setting? You can’t miss a performance at Minami-za, Japan’s oldest kabuki theatre. Known for its bizarre quality, kabuki, a classical dance-drama, has been a popular art form since the Edo period, when crowds from all walks of life gathered to watch the performances. Today, the Minami-za is the most renowned spot in Japan to enjoy this otherworldly art.
One of the most popular performance venues in Kyoto, Taku Taku first opened as a sake brewery, but, over the years, evolved into a bar and live music venue. This blues rock bar has long been the stage for both local and international artists, and the establishment’s love for blues is documented in the atmospheric interior, with wooden décor and posters of the performers who have taken its stage. Try to get a drink ticket beforehand for great drink deals.
Like Taku Taku, Jittoku used to be a sake brewery, and even today, after decades as a performance venue, it has retained the atmosphere of a brewery, with its stone floors and seats made of sake barrels. Anyone can book the venue for a performance, making it a great place for aspiring local musicians. The venue generally caters to a mature, Japanese crowd, so most of the music performed will be rock, blues, or folk, but there will be occasional performances of J-Pop, electronica, and other genres.