Most shops slide their doors open at 10, and many shopkeepers partake of the morning ritual of sweeping and watering the entrance to welcome the first customers. Traditional shops lock up at 6 or 7 in the evening. Stores often close sporadically once or twice a month (closings are irregular), so it helps to call in advance if you're making a special trip. On weekends, downtown can be very crowded.
A shopkeeper's traditional greeting to a customer is o-ideyasu (Kyoto-ben, the Kyoto dialect, for "honored to have you here"), voiced in the lilting Kyoto intonations with the required bowing of the head. When a customer makes a purchase, the shopkeeper will respond with o-okini ("thank you" in Kyoto-ben), a smile, and a bow. Take notice of the careful effort and adroitness with which purchases are wrapped; it's an art in itself.
Kyoto's depato (department stores) are small in comparison to their mammoth counterparts in Tokyo and Osaka. They still carry a wide range of goods and are great places for one-stop souvenir shopping. Wandering around the basement food halls is a good way to build up an appetite. Prices drop dramatically during end-of-season sales.
Kyoto has several popular seasonal fairs, from local area pottery sales to the national antiques fairs, usually held in May, June, and October. Several temple markets take place in Kyoto each month. These are great places to pick up bargain kimonos or unusual souvenirs. They're also some of the best spots for people-watching.
This popular store, part of a national chain, has five floors with everything from beauty products to anime merchandise. Kids and teenagers love browsing here. There's much to catch the eye.
What You Should Buy Here: Beauty Products & Anime Merchandise
Address: Kawaramachi-nishi, Takoyakushi-dori, Kyoto, 604-8031, Japan
Hours: Daily 11–9
Takashimaya Department Store
Another of Kyoto's favorite department stores, Takashimaya specializes in luxury goods and designer fashions. You'll find an accommodating, English-speaking staff and a convenient money-exchange counter. The top floor has bargain merchandise, and another floor is filled with restaurants to revive the shop weary. The exhibition hall and galleries are also worth a visit, as is the basement gourmet food market.
What You Should Buy Here: Luxury Goods & Designer Fashions
Address: Shijo-Kawaramachi, Kyoto, 600-8001, Japan
Hours: Daily 10–7:30
One of the two largest temple markets takes place on the 21st of each month. Vendors arrive early and set up by 7 or 8 am. Hundreds of stalls display fans, kimonos, antiques, potted plants, herbs, and newly designed clothing. Bring a pencil and paper to help you bargain down the price. The temple also hosts a smaller antiques market on the first Sunday of the month.
What You Should Buy Here: Fans, Kimonos, Antiques, Potted Plants, Herbs, & Newly Designed Clothing
Address: 1 Kujo-cho, Kyoto, 601-8473, Japan
The tenugui hand towels sold by this shop have served many purposes through the centuries. In designs today that range from traditional to playful, the towels make wonderful scarves, napkins, bottle holders, and other items depending on how you twist and shape them. The colors and designs are so vibrant and eye-catching that framing one and hanging it as art is another possibility. This RAAK store is one of several in the city.
What You Should Buy Here: Tenugui Hand Towels
Address: Muromachi-dori, 358 Yakugyosha-cho, Anekoji Sagaru, Kyoto, Japan
Hours: Daily 11–7
Steps from Shijo subway station's Exit 5, this quaint kimono shop stocks original attire and antique accessories. Its English-speaking staff is kind and extremely knowledgeable. Your time spent trying on different items is sure to be a fun fashion experience. Many of the goods sold here are painstakingly tracked down at estate sales and flea markets.
What You Should Buy Here: Kimonos & Other Fabric Goods
Address: 319–3 Kamiyanagi-cho, Karasuma-higashi-iru, Bukkoji-dori, Kyoto, 600-8099, Japan
Hours: Thurs.–Tues. noon–7
Fine handwoven and hand-dyed indigo textiles are this shop's specialty. The indigo plant is grown only in one place in Japan nowadays, and Aizen Kobo makes exclusive use of that product, crafting cloth and garments in this rich deep-blue color. The owner dyes the cloth and his wife, Hisako Utsuki, designs.
What You Should Buy Here: Indigo-dyed Clothing & Cloth Goods
Address: Omiya Nishi-iru, Nakasuji-dori, Kyoto, 602-8449, Japan
Hours: Daily 10–5:30
The ceramics, glass, basketry, lacquerware, and other objects sold here are made with such artistry that only their utilitarian nature nudges them into the craft, as opposed to fine art, category. The owner keeps the prices reasonable so these beautiful things will be appreciated and used daily.
What You Should Buy Here: Ceramics, Glass, Basketry, Lacquerware, & Other Crafts
Address: Kawaramachi-dori, Takoyakushi-agaru, Kyoto, 604-8033, Japan
Hours: Wed.–Mon. 11–7
The famous fan shop Miyawaki Baisen-an has been in business since 1823, delighting customers not only with its fine collection of lacquered, scented, painted, and paper fans, but also with the old-world atmosphere of the shop itself.
What You Should Buy Here: Fans
Address: Tominokoji Higashi-iru, Rokkaku-dori, Kyoto, 604-8073, Japan
Hours: Daily 9–6
One-room Ryushido sells exquisite paper products for calligraphers: paper of varying thicknesses, writing brushes, ink sticks, ink stones, and paperweights. The shop has a classic, artisanal feel.
What You Should Buy Here: Stationary & Calligraphy Goods
Address: Nijo-agaru, Teramachi-dori, Kyoto, 604-0916, Japan
Hours: Sun. and Holidays 9–6
Kyoto's oldest and most renowned maker of lustrous lacquerware trays, tea ceremony utensils, calligraphy, boxes and other lacquer products was established in 1661. The showroom on Teramachi-dori has both contemporary and traditional specimens.
What You Should Buy Here: Lacquerware
Address: Nakagyo-ku, Teramachi-dori, Nijo agaru, nishi-gawa, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 604-0916, Japan
Hours: Daily 10–6
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