The History of Iroha

The History of Iroha Honten (South)

In 1911, Seijirō Uenami (b. September 19th, 1876) founded Iroha as a gyunabe restaurant at Shinkyōkyoku Sanjō-sagaru Sakurano-cho (facing the former Shōchikuza).

In 1917, Iroha moved to the location of the former Naniwarō, a Kyoto restaurant, newly renovating the building to be three-stories and rebranding as a sukiyaki restaurant in 1924.
As a three-story building at this time, it was possible to look down upon the Kamo River, as well as to view the Higashiyama mountain range and Daimonji Mountain. Iroha became a familiar place well-beloved by many.

Actors from the Minamiza Theatre on the other side of the Kamo River would also often visit after their performances. Situated in such an excellent location on Shijō Street, the figure of the Iroha building can be found in many writings, photographs, and films featuring famous location in Kyoto beginning in the Taisho Period.
Iroha even appeared on the silver screen as a Dōtonburi gyunabe shop in “Akumyō,” a film starring Katsu Shintaro and Jiro Tamiya.

*Iroha Honten is closed for the time being.Naniwarō (Source: Yunen Ishida, "Miyako no Sakigake" Vol. 1, p. 127, 1883)
Minami-za (Source: Collection of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies)

The History of Iroha Kitamise (North)

Iroha Kitamise opened in 1964 and is located in the renovated building that previously held a prominent Edo Period restaurant called “Daimonjiya.” The name of the Daimonjiya is inscribed in the dramatic history of the upheaval that accompanied the end of the Tokugawa shogunate.

“On the night of August 20th, 1862, in the second year of the Bunkyū era at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, Seiichirō Honma, a samurai from the Teradomari area of Echigo who was loyal to the Emperor, entered Daimonjiya in the company of a geisha during a heavy downpour. Around midnight, a dead drunk Seiichirō left Daimonjiya and was attacked in an alley on the way to Kiyamachi by eight assassins, including Shinbei Tanaka of Satsuma Province and Izō Okada of Taso Province, ultimately losing his life. ”
(From “A History of Assassinations at the End of the Edo Period” by Kukio Nakazawa, Yuzankaku Publishing, 1966)

“At this time, Daimonjiya was a prominent restaurant in Pontocho employing 80 geisha and 19 escorts. ”
(“Flowers in All Directions,” Izutsusha Publishing, 1867)

The Daimonjiya of those days is today called Iroha Kitamise, and the aoi-kuzushi no ranma or “hollyhock transoms” of our restaurant convey an image of those times to visitors seeking a connection to Seiichirō Honma.

During the renovation of the restaurant in 1992, we asked the Ishiyachō Gallery in Pontochō to produce 12 fusuma-e, or images painted on sliding screens, to decorate our restaurant with a variety of works of modern art. These contrast beautifully with the appearance and atmosphere of Iroha Kitamise, which have been inherited from the Kyoto of the late Edo period.Top: Stone monument to Seiichirō Honma at the location of his death.
This monument to Seiichirō Honma is located in Kiyamachi.

Middle: Ao-kuzushi no ranma or “hollyhock transom”
These transoms are located on the second floor of the Kitamise

Bottom: A room in Iroha Kitamise
The tokonoma, staggered shelves, and sliding screens are decorated with modern art

Ponto-chō Street

In the 10th year of the Kanbun Period (1670), a long, thin area called Shinkawara-machi was created between the Kamo and Takase Rivers on the right bank of the Kamo River downstream from the Sanjō bridge through the construction of protective levees.
After this, due to the maintenance of these boundaries, this long strip of land stretching for a total of 600 meters from Ishiya-machi in the north, which touches the southern wall of the Zuisen-ji temple, to Hashimoto-chō in Nishiishigaki on the far side of Shijō Street in the south, came to be called Ponto-chō.
According to one explanation, the name is said to come from the Portuguese word for one hundred, “cento,” due to the resemblance of the 50 narrow alleys that run off of Kiya-machi Street as it runs north to south to the hundred legs of a centipede.
It is also possible that the area acquired the nickname Ponto-chō due to its resemblance to the sharp point of a spear, as a sharp point is called a “ponta” in Portuguese. This phonetic term then acquired the characters that are used to spell the name today.Shinkawara-machi has included a larger number of alleys since this time.


January 1884
Seijiro Uenami founds "Iroha" in Sakurano-cho in Kyoto. This area is currently called Shinkyogoku Sanjo.
April 1918
Iroha moves to Kashiwaya-cho, Shijo-dori, Sendo-cho, the current location of Iroha Honten (South).
September 1919
The building housing Iroha is renovated, becoming a three-story wooden structure.Iroha as of 1919, the current Iroha Honten (South)
October 1964
"Iroha Kitamise (North)" is opened in Nabeya-cho, Shijo-dori, Sendo-cho.
May 1966
Iroha receives the 1st SDA Award Silver Award from the Japan Sign Design Association.
April 1990
Yoichiro Uenami becomes the third generation of the Uenami family to lead Iroha.
December 1990
Iroha Honten (South) is renovated in its current style.The current Iroha Honten (South)
December 1992
Iroha Kitamise (North) is expanded and renovated to its current style.The current Iroha Kitamise (North)