After several days of walking tours through 1100 years of history, Kyoto may have you “templed out”. It’s a common syndrome that many travelers experience as they explore the Inca ruins of Peru and the gilded temples of Thailand. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact savvy travelers know that diversifying an itinerary is the best way to get the most out of a location without risking burnout. Once you’ve ticked off the major sights on your list, it’s time for some shopping and eating.
Shopping In Kyoto
Just north of Heian Shrine on Marutamachi Street, the Kyoto Handicraft Center is a collective of stores offering a great spot to shop. Whether you’re looking for pottery, fans, or dolls, the perfect souvenir awaits. Demonstrations and exhibits are available for chronic window shoppers. Many items are duty free so feel free to pick up an authentic kimono.
In two parallel markets between Shijo and Sanjo Streets, find that perfect keepsake to take home. The first walkway, Teramachi Shopping Arcade has folding fans, sword shops, incense stalls and much more. Head to Daishodo for authentic woodblock prints and books. Or stop by Duty Free Kyoto and see the latest in Japanese electronics (on sale). Paralleling its twin, Kyogoku Shopping Arcade boasts paper products, jean shops, and ice cream parlors. But head for Chopstick Gallery MON for a real treat. Over 2000 chopsticks are in stock from all over Japan in a variety of materials and finishes. Kiyomizu ceramics and pottery are also available alongside bowls, chopstick holders, and other accessories. In bad weather, take refuge under these covered awnings. Check email at an internet cafe. Sing a song at a karaoke box. Or crowd your family into a hi-tech photo booth for some funny shots.
Eating in Kyoto
For a crash course in Japanese cuisine, head to Nishiki Market. Also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, the long avenue sells everything from pickled daikon to dried fish and sushi. The covered market is a photographer’s delight and a serial-snacker’s dream. Taste the sweet and the savory sides of Japan. Make friends with fishmongers whose families have worked these stalls for centuries.
At twilight, visit Kyoto’s traditional nightlife district. Red lanterns beckon visitors down the narrow avenue. Restaurants, teahouses, and bars crowd the street. Sample the premium sake or try a skewer or two of yakitori, traditional grilled chicken. If you are very lucky, you may catch the clip-clop of Geisha apprentices, called Maiko, on their way to see a client. Their stunning kimono will draw you into the charm of the “Floating World.”
Izakaya, the Japanese Pub
In the covered arcades, hop between Japanese pubs called izakaya. Picture menus make it easy to order sashimi, hotpots, dumplings and fried fish. Beers come in small and large sizes and are meant to be shared. Every izakaya is different. Some offer squid ink pizza, others potato dumplings stuffed with cheese while many specialize in kimchi fried rice and omelets. It’s a culinary tour on its own. Head to either Teramachi or Kyogoku Shopping Arcades and pick a place with a crowd. It’s always more fun that way.