If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Kyomachi, the old streets of Kyoto, there’s a special dining establishment in Tokyo that will take you there. The Kyomachi Koishigure restaurant features private dining rooms, red bridges, bamboo corridors and a running stream so you can enjoy all the traditional beauty of Kyoto without having to leave the nation’s capital.
And now, for a limited time only, the restaurant will take you back in time to the late Edo period, with a special “fair” that recreates the infamous Ikedaya Incident, a significant moment in Japan’s history when a group of masterless samurai were ambushed at Kyoto’s Ikedaya Inn.
As part of the experience, diners can enjoy a specially designed menu inside a recreation of the inn, and staff dressed as members of a sword-wielding police force who “ambush” your private room every time you place an order.
Kyomachi Koishigure restaurant in Shinjuku transports to you to the nation’s former capital with lanterns, bridges and a number of private dining rooms cleverly designed as traditional wooden huts and buildings, which make you feel as if you’re wandering through the back alleys of Kyoto.
The restaurant is now offering a very special treat for lovers of old Kyoto during the month of October only, with an area dedicated to recreating all the historical drama and intrigue surrounding the Ikedaya Incident which occurred at the Ikedaya Inn in Kyoto on July 8, 1864. The incident came about at a time of unrest in Kyoto, as unemployed ronin settled in the area with different views for the future of Japan, which was facing an end to the isolated feudal society of the Edo period (1603–1868) and a move towards the more modern society of the Meiji era (1868–1912).
▼ Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan during the Edo period.
On the night of the incident, a group of ronin and political activists known as the Shishi gathered at the inn, which was their regular meeting place, with plans to kidnap the emperor, assassinate a peace-keeping daimyo lord and set fire to the city of Kyoto, in order to overthrow the Shogunate. A special police force known as the Shinsengumi, who were loyal to the Shogunate, caught wind of their plan and confronted the Shishi at the inn, killing eight and arresting 23, effectively steering the course of history towards the Japan that we know today.
Unfortunately, the Ikedaya Inn was destroyed during the incident, meaning history lovers aren’t able to visit the original scene. For many years, a pachinko parlour stood at the site, but now a restaurant called “Ikedaya” stands in its place. While the restaurant features a traditional facade, its been constructed using modern materials, giving it a fresh, unworn look.
For history buffs who really want to experience all the action of the night itself, a more authentic-looking recreation of the Ikedaya Inn has been set up at the Kyomachi Koishigure restaurant in Tokyo. The dusty, worn-out stairs and dimly lit entrance make customers feel like they’re really going back in time to the fateful night when swordsmen clashed to change the course of history.
There’s a special menu too, featuring two cocktails that pay homage to Okita Sōji, captain of the Shinsengumi and Hijikata Toshizō, its vice-commander; a spicy meal named after the big fire conspiracy and a dessert perfect for a break between dissidents’ meetings.
Customers who order from the special menu will receive service from a member of the Shinsengumi, who will “ambush” you in your room with your delivery. Each order will come with a different ambush style so be sure to order them one at a time!
If you know someone who’s particularly knowledgeable when it comes to Japanese history, you might want to take them along to the restaurant because customers who pass a 10-question test after ordering from the special menu will receive an even more exclusive menu to order from. Now that’s a great reason to brush up on our history studies!
Kyomachi Koishigure Shinjuku/京町恋しぐれ 新宿
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku, 3-27-10, Musashino Building 6th floor
Open: 5:00 p.m. – 4:00 a.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. Sunday and Monday