The Current Trend Among Kyoto College Students is Kyoto Bouzu Bar, a Bar Run By a Monk!
[Local College Students Tell All!] Interested in what is popular among young people in Kyoto nowadays? Start with Kyoto Bouzu Bar! What kind of place is it? Why is a monk running a bar? What kind of drinks do they serve? Even just the name will pique your interest, so come check it out!
Jul 07 2017 (Sep 09 2020)
Monks are people that even most Japanese people don't meet during their day-to-day lives. At these bars, you can meet and converse with monks.
What is Bouzu Bar?
"Bouzu Bar" is a place where, as the name implies, it's run by a monk. (Monks are called "bouzu" or "obou-san.") As of 2017, there are 2 in Tokyo, 1 in Osaka, and 1 in Kyoto, totaling 4 nationwide. Monks have an image of being hard to approach, but here you can easily chat with a monk over the bar counter!
Go to Kyoto Bouzu Bar!
So, let's head to Kyoto Bouzu Bar! The closest station is Karasuma Station on the Hankyu Line. Exit from the west ticket gates and exit 24 will immediately be on your right.
Go up the stairs, using this pole as a landmark. As soon as you get to the exit, take a right and walk 10 minutes straight down Shijo-dori.
When you reach the Aburanokoji intersection, you're almost there! Take a right, pass by the first parking lot, and you should see Kyoto Bouzo Bar on your right.
[About Kyoto Bouzu Bar]
Opening Hours: 6:00 PM～12:00 AM
Closed: Sundays (Occasionally switched with a different day)
Access: 10 minute walk from exit 24 of Karasuma Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Main Line
Address: 526 Yamada-cho, Takoyakushicho-sagaru, Aburanokoji, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Google Map)
HP: bozu-bar.jp/ (Japanese Only)
This is the calm interior. This building was originally a traditional home with over 100 years of history and used to be used as a dry goods store.
There is a large area with tatami flooring that can be used by groups. You can take off your shoes and relax on the tatami while enjoying a drink or two.
Around the shop are various items and tools related to Buddhism and Buddhist ceremonies. For example, what you use to call the staff is the bell used when chanting sutras. You hit the bell with the stick lightly to make it ring.
There is a Buddhist altar above a fridge deifying Buddha.
Their original coasters have Buddha printed on them, so no matter where you look, this bar is full of stuff to attract your interest! These coasters have Vairocana on them as well as the grapes and wheat that wine and beer are made from.
What is a monk?
This is the monk, Takahide Haneda. He is a monk at Kouon-ji Temple of the Jodo Shinshu Hongan-ji Temple sect of Buddhism.
What is a monk?
What kind of person becomes a monk? Even college students who live in Kyoto and see monks on a regular basis cannot easily answer this question.
The word "obou-san" is said to come from the word "sou" 2,500 years ago, from the Sanskrit word "sanga." Sanga referred to the group that gathered around Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. In modern Japan, there are various sects of Buddhism in which monks wear different dress and have different interpretations of Buddhist teachings, but they all gather at the feet of Buddha regardless of sect, so they're all called monks.
Why would a monk open a bar?
Before opening Kyoto Bouzu Bar, Mr. Haneda had been questioning what kind of place to create a temple. After visiting other bars run by monks and discovering different points of view, he decided that he wanted to create a place where people could gather and exchange ideas, temple or not. Kyoto Bouzu Bar was created as a place where people can learn about not just Buddhism but about the whole wide world.
From left to right are the drinks Yamazaki 12 Year Old (1,400 yen), Hakushu 12 Year Old (1,400 yen), Hibiki 17 Year Old (1,800 yen), and Taketsuru 17 Year Old (1,600 yen). (None of these prices include tax.)
This bar focuses on domestically produced liquor. For wine, they make a point of only carrying Japanese wine. Mr. Haneda's daily beer recommendation is based on flavor, which changes based on season or region of production.
They also offer Japanese whiskey, a drink popular with foreign customers as well because it is easy to drink. The 4 varieties available in the photo are particularly popular. You should definitely try them if you come to Japan.
All of these drinks were brought together with care by Mr. Haneda, but it's hard to pick just one! For those of you that want to try multiple drinks, check out the Nihon wo Shiru 3 Set (3,700 yen plus tax). The set's name means "know Japan," and it comes with that day's local beer, wine, and whiskey along with a special side dish.
There are English and Chinese (traditional and simplified) menus available. It would good to look through the menu and choose carefully.
This bar holds various events all year round. The above photo is from Buddha's Birthday event, celebrated on April 8th, 2017. This event celebrates Siddhartha Gautama's birthday with a flower festival, so the bar was decorated with plenty of flowers and included a live music performance.
Other events include wine tastings offered by vineyard staff and "Obosanpo," an event where you can walk around Kyoto learning about history with a monk that works at the Institute for Zen Studies. Unfortunately, this event is only held in Japanese, but it's a great event for anyone that wants to learn about Japanese culture or experience a world unknown to them.
This is a spot recommended to anyone that wants to meet and talk to a monk at least once in their lives. Please stop by when you visit Kyoto!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.