Hey, everyone! My name is Christina, and I used to live in Kyoto. Because I used to live in Kyoto, I frequently go back and visit my friends there since I now live in the Kanto region of Japan.
On one of my trips back to Kyoto in late last year, I stayed at The Limelight Kyoto, not too long after it first opened. Since then, I've made it my go-to place to stay because of how convenient it is to a lot of places in Kyoto – and, of course, my friends. On my second stay at The Limelight Kyoto, I was chatting with Ulala, one of the staff members of The Limelight Kyoto who speaks English well, and, after asking her where some good places to eat are in Hanazono, she took me to Japan's version of a pub – known as an izakaya in Japanese – called Yokato (written as よかと in Japanese).
Being a foreigner and walking into a local, family-run Japanese pubs or restaurants is honestly a little intimidating – even my Japanese friends who aren't from Kyoto have told me the same thing. Japanese communities are usually close-knit places where all the neighbors have known each other for decades, and Hanazono seems to be no different. How do you walk into a place like that, especially if you know only a little Japanese? And how can you tell what's actually a gem? That's what I'm here to share with you!
First, I think you'll get the most of your trip to Hanazono if you try a mom & pop shop. I admit that I found myself going to very open-looking, larger chain eateries when I traveled on my own in Kyoto because they seemed like the safest bet.
You don't have to walk far to get to Yokato: it's no more than a 30-second walk from Hanazono Station and The Limelight Kyoto. You can't miss it if you look for these banners down a really narrow street:
When we walked in, there were customers having a good time at some traditional Japanese tables, where you need to take off your shoes and sit on a cushion (known as a zabuton in Japanese) on a tatami-mat floor. Then there was an open bar, which is where we decided to get up close and personal with the chef and his wife, who own the restaurant.
Check out my next blog about the food and my experience there coming soon!