Souvenirs, food, bargains and various “one-of-a-kind items” are all the things you can encounter by chance in the streets of Kyoto. Here are some recommended shopping spots for those who would like to walk around Kyoto on their own two feet and enjoy shopping.
Inside Kyoto City, there are several streets stretching from East to West and North to South. Among the streets that run from East to West is a street that goes through the heart of Kyoto, Shijo-dori. It’s Kyoto’s main street that is always bustling with international and domestic tourists. Originally, the narrowness of the street proved to be a problem but in 2015, the width of the street was expanded, making it much easier to walk through. In particular, the shops gathered there are located between Kawaramachi-dori and Karasuma-dori. There are the well-established department stores Daimaru, Takashimaya and Fujii Daimaru along with everything else from fashion, food, Kyoto-style clothing (Kimono) to general goods all in one place.
※The photo pictured is from 2011.
2. Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market, the shopping district known as "The Kitchen of Kyoto." Inside Nishikikoji-dori which extends from east to west, it is between Teramachi-dori and Takakura-dori, spanning an overall length of 400m. It is a shopping spot for the locals with many small shops lining the narrow streets deal with food items like greengrocers, butchers, tofu sellers and more. Because the street is narrow (5m), which is typical for Kyoto, there are also times when it becomes quite congested with people. There are many shops that sell food samples at the front of their stores aimed at tourists, so you can enjoy what is called “Tabe-aruki (walking and eating)”. It is recommended to check the homepage beforehand to see what shops you would like to visit.
3. Kyoto Handicraft Center
From Keihan Jingu-Marutamachi Station, if you proceed east there is the “Kyoto handicraft Center” which focuses on traditional handicrafts, selling various goods that give you a true sense of “Japanese-style” and “Kyoto”. From kimono and yukata, traditional Japanese goods like tenugui and handkerchiefs, Japanese cosmetics, ceramics, Kyoto dolls, Japanese tea, Japanese alcohol, Kyoto confectioneries and so many other goods are available making it a perfect place for buying souvenirs. Also, there are classes where you can experience making traditional handicraft with your own hands such as painting folding fans or making “nioi-bukuro” (pouches containing fragrant pieces of wood used to freshen kimonos etc.). There is English support on every floor, and they also offer duty-free services for tourists.
One of the streets running from the north to the south in the heart of Kyoto is Teramachi-dori. At the entrance between Sanjo-dori and Shijo-dori there is a mosaic compass that has become the symbol of the the shopping arcade known as “Teramachi Kyogoku Shopping district”. With general clothing stores as the focus, there are about 170 shops lined up and crowded with people. Also, between Shijo-dori and Oike-dori (the street across from Kyoto City’s government office) there is the “Teramachi shopping district”, with many stores that deal with items and general goods that are unique to Kyoto. It can also be fun to walk around and view the small merchant house shops (a common architectural style in Kyoto with the shop and living area together in one building) that line the streets.
※Pictured in the photo is Teramachi Kyogoku Shopping District
5. Kyoto BAL
Proceeding north from Shijokawaramachi there is a fashion building with over 40 years of history “Kyoto BAL”. It had a grand re-opening after renovations in August of 2015, and it has become a building that has an air of elegance about it. The passage has also been expanded so you can shop comfortably. In addition to the select shops that carry unisex fashions, there are also stores that deal with general goods, plants, stationery and so on and in particular, you can find many unique shops. In the basement, is “Maruden” which boasts Kyoto’s largest collection of books.
Did you like the places listed? Although you might call them all “shopping spots”, they each have their own unique characteristics. In the event that you visit Kyoto, by all means, let your feet take you to lots of different areas and find shops that strike your fancy.