Until some time ago, there were, we are told, 12 bars spread over three 2-storey houses on this 50 m2 plot on Kiyamachidori, adjacent to one of Kyoto’s most intricate network of night alleys, Pontocho, where a vibrant mixture of bars, brothels, inns, dwellings, shops have for centuries created an urban atmosphere of essential Kyoto nightlife.
With an unobtrusive high-end restaurant next to a (visually less subtle) cheap yakitori, with a hidden gem of a ryokan at the end of the narrowest of side-alleys across an enigmatic place commanding courage to enter, any walk here leads to eventual surprises. Pontocho unfolds to its visitors as a horizontal labyrinth.
Located just behind Pontocho, K8, a small building housing a bar and a gallery, is the translation of that experience into the vertical: one continuous space stretching over eight levels. Here, the evening evolves as a gradually changing course of events, from aperitif on ground level to digestif on the top overlooking Pontocho towards Kamogawa.
As a homogeneous yet continuously changing surface, the façade creates an ambiguity often found in Kyoto’s architecture. Several hundred wooden louvers evoke a sense of motion, as if the building itself were continuously engaging with its environment. From outside, the building’s interior is more concealed than revealed: Facing the building, one is left without a precise answer as to how many floors or how deep the building might be. Towards the sides, the louvers are rotated to a degree that they almost appear to be a solid, albeit nuanced, wall. Towards the middle, varying degrees of transparency give subtle hints about the inside. Walking by sets the façade in motion, the building starts to dance.