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Shopping and Souvenirs in Kyoto

If you like shopping, you will love Kyoto. Kyoto used to be the old capital of Japan, and so it has a long history of high-quality shops, that nowadays is kept alive by the many shops and vendors you will find all over the city.

There are some extremely famous shopping areas – especially Shijo-dori and the Nishiki Market – where you will find anything you might want to give to your friends back home: kimonos, green tea, woodblock prints, Japanese paper, and much more!

Check out our short guide and learn more about shopping in Kyoto!

Highlights

  • The most popular shopping street in Kyoto is Shijo-dori, always bustling with both, locals and tourists.
  • If you feel nostalgic, head to the Higashiyama District, an old-fashioned neighborhood that you will love.
  • The flea markets are a wonderful opportunity to buy rare and unique items.
  • In Kyoto you will find plenty of shops selling signature Japanese souvenirs…
  • …like yukata, woodblock prints, green tea, and much, much more.

Most popular shopping areas

In Kyoto there are tons of places for shopping, and you might feel overwhelmed. To help you in your shopping adventures, we have gathered some of the best shopping spots of the city such as Shijo Street, the most popular place for shopping, and Nishkii Market, an 800-year-old market with hundreds of shops and restaurants.

Other popular places are the Kyoto Handicraft Center, the Higashiyama District, and the flea markets held once a month.

Shijo Street

Shijo-dori is the main street of Kyoto, always packed with locals and international tourists. There are tons of shops, mostly gathered between Kawaramachi-dori and Karasuma-dori. That is where you will find the famous department stores of Daimaru (with eight floors of cosmetics, jewelry, and fashion), Takashiyama, and Fujii Daimary.

On Shijo Street you will find everything, from food to clothing (especially kimono and yukata).

Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is one of those places that you cannot miss. The market started as a fish wholesale district around 1310. Today it is one of the most important markets in Kyoto.

It is a five-block marketplace with hundreds and hundreds of shops and restaurants, selling goods produced locally. You will find literally everything to do with food, from cookware to ingredients – the market is also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”.

Strolling around the Nishiki Market, you can try the free goodies offered by the many stalls you will find. You can also eat something at the many small restaurants selling ready-made food.

Kyoto Handicraft Center

Kyoto, the seat of the Imperial Court for over 1000 years, has set the quality standards for Japanese arts and crafts, and today is the most important center for traditional Japanese crafts.

You will find all the crafts there that you might want to bring back home, such as:

  • Pottery, with kiyomizo pottery being the most popular one
  • Kimonos – in Kyoto there are two methods of manufacturing, silk weaving and silk dyeing
  • Japanese dolls
  • Folding fans – you will find the highest quality fans of the country
  • Lacquerware, frequently used in tea ceremonies.

Higashiyama District

Maybe you want to get out of the city andvisit a quieter shopping place. Then, don’t look any further and go to the Higashiyama District. Located in the sloping eastern mountains of Kyoto, the district is a traditional neighborhood, with wooden houses, cobblestone pathways and traditional shops – a unique way to get a glimpse of the old Kyoto capital.

There are tons of old-fashioned shops where you can buy pottery, souvenirs and delicacies. Shopping there, is a truly memorable experience.

Shin Kyogoko Arcade

Shin Kyogoko Arcade is the shopping place for the youngsters. It offers a huge variety for reasonably priced trendy clothes. This is the second oldest shopping strip in Kyoto (the first being Asakusa Nakamise). And if you decide to ‘shop til you drop’, as they say, you will find plenty of restaurants where to grab a delicious bite.

Flea Markets

To those interested in unique, unusual objects, we strongly recommend visiting the Flea Market on the Toji Temple grounds. The market is open on the 21st of every month, from dawn till dusk, with dozens of vendors selling almost anything you can think of, both new and second-hand. Every Sunday, instead, you will find antique dealers, all located in specific areas.

Another flea market you should check out (held on the 25th of every month) is the Tenjin-san flea market. There are more than 1,000 shops surrounding the shrines, selling pottery, toys, second-hand goods, food, kimonos, and much more. Kimonos and antique goods are the most popular items of the market.

What to buy where

After we have seen some of the best shopping places of the city, let’s look at the best souvenirs you can bring back with you, from yukata to green tea, from washi to woodblock print. You will find shops selling only products of the highest quality.

Yukata

Yukata is a casual summer kimono, usually made of light fabric, worn by both, men and women. Usually, when you visit a ryokan, you will be supplied with a yukata – and we bet that it will be the most comfortable dress you have ever worn.

So, if you want to bring one back home, we suggest you check out the many department stores in Kyoto, especially the Daimaru and the Takashimaya department store, where you will find plenty of English-speaking shopping assistants.

Green tea

Green tea is a must-try in Japan, and a lot of people like to pack some, so as to let their loved ones try back home. If you think about it, it is the perfect gift: affordable, easy to carry and delicious and healthy.

The most famous green tea shop is Ippodo, in business since 1717. They let you try the different teas they have and pick up the one you like the most.

Washi

Washi – the traditional Japanese handmade paper – has been a product of Japan for more than 1300 years. It is thin and strong, and, of course, more expensive than standard paper. Like green tea, it is a unique, precious gift that is also easy to carry with you. All the shops will put the paper in cardboard tubes for safe transport.

Morita Washi is an institution of washi. You will find an incredible variety of paper and paper goods there, and you will spend hours browsing in their shop.

Lacquerware

The rest of the world has a long-lasting fascination with Japanese lacquerware, and rightfully so – you just need to see high-quality lacquerware to understand its beauty and the amount of skills required to craft it. It is an expensive gift, a gift for that special person that you know, that can appreciate such a precious object.

Zohiko is arguably the best lacquerware shop in Kyoto. It is such a nice shop that it can be almost considered a museum, with extraordinary pieces of lacquerware that can cost several thousands of yen.

Woodblock prints

Woodblock prints are an exceptional piece of art to bring home, and you can do this for a very reasonable price – most places have them for about USD 30. They are perfect to frame and to hang on the wall in the nicest room of your house.

The Kyoto Handicraft Center is, of course, the place to go for some high-quality woodblock prints. Besides that, you can also attend a demonstration or take part in classes in block carving and printing.

Some tips for shopping

When shopping in Kyoto, it is not that hard to get good deals at department stores like Isetan and Daimaru. Inside the Demachi Shotengai shopping arcade, you will find plenty of small shops selling everything.There are also lots of 100-yen shops, selling small, practical objects for the equivalent of a dollar fifty. The flea markets are also ideal for some good bargains.

If you bring your passport with you, you can prove that you are a tourist and then save the 8% sales tax that is added to every merchandise. There are also many tax-free shops; check them out!

When buying a kimono (or a yukata) don’t buy the first one you see. Try to avoid the expensive souvenir shops and head to the department stores.

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