Shopping in Kyoto

Shopping in Kyoto can often mean choosing from handicrafts with traditions dating back centuries or visiting a shop that has been a family business for generations. At first glance, certain items such as a brush for applying lacquer may seem relatively simple, but are actually created using extremely complicated and time-consuming processes requiring gifted specialists and unique materials. Kyoto shopping presents a tempting array of handcrafted articles, including static-free boxwood combs, woven baskets, cherry wood molds for sweets, wagasa oilpaper umbrellas, bamboo shakuhachi flutes, tea containers, chochin paper lanterns, cypress wood Noh masks, and silk textiles perfected since the 15th century.

Shopping in Kyoto Photo Gallery

Certain districts and locations in Kyoto have shopping specialties. The streets and lanes between Higashi Hongan-ji and Nishi Hongan-ji Temples contain many Buddhist altar and paraphernalia shops, candlemakers featuring fluted ceremonial candles, and incense shops with fragrances dating back to the Heian period. The Gojo-zaka area is known for Kiyomizu-yaki pottery and porcelain. The historic neighborhood below the famous Kiyomizu Temple boasts many ceramics shops, studios, and galleries, and hosts the Toki Matsuri Pottery Festival street market each August. The Kyoto Handicraft Center has fine kimono, ningyo dolls, traditional cosmetics, and washi hand-made paper, as well as craft workshops. The Nishiki Market is considered “Kyoto’s kitchen,” where shoppers can sample delicious snacks while choosing from vegetables and fruit, tofu, seafood, tea, sake, cutlery, and any shape or size of dishware imaginable.

Stylish consumers window shop in Uji.

A dish for every occasion in a city where meals are also an aesthetic endeavor.

Shopping friends sample tea at Nishiki Market.

Woven bamboo and reed baskets at a handicrafts shop in Sagano.

A display of ceramics on Gojo-dori during the Toki Matsuri Pottery Festival.

Wagasa oilpaper umbrellas at a souvenir shop in Ohara.

Chic designer clothing is housed in a traditional machiya on Sanjo-dori.

Nishiki Market offers much more than edibles alone.

Kyoto Style

Perhaps the keyword for Kyoto style is kimono. More than anywhere else in the country, the quintessential Japanese kimono, with its inherent elegance and unique grace in motion, can be seen and appreciated in Kyoto every day of the year, not just on special occasions. From the lighter yukata of summer to the elaborate silk kimono of Gion’s maiko, the flowing hues of the traditional robes color the cityscape. A thriving Kyoto industry of kimono rental shops for women and men at reasonable rates (Regular Plan: ¥2,900!) is adding vigor to the city’s kaleidoscope of kimono, with more and more international visitors joining Japanese tourists eager to try Kyoto style for themselves.

Dozens of colleges and universities supply a casual contrast of youthful collegiate fashion (often on bicycles) to Kyoto’s thoroughfares, while each of Kyoto’s many specialized trades and shokunin craftsmen simply must be attired properly, from head to toe, in the appropriate uniform for the job. The young man or woman in baggy jodhpur-like trousers and split-toe jikatabi boots, carrying large shears or other tools in a leather holster, is either headed for a gardening task or a construction site. Even the gravel used in many Kyoto gardens has a distinctive tone; it is not white but the subtlest of silvery grays.

A silk kimono befitting a refined older gentleman.

Young women in yukata summer kimono alight from a rickshaw at Kennin-ji Temple.

Maiko details of silk and wood.

Photogenic fall fashion at Nanzen-ji.

Matte white makeup is a distinctive feature of the esoteric Gion maiko.

A mendicant monk wearing a takuhatsugasa hat of woven rice straw seeks alms.

A Zen monk’s zori sandals.

A jaunty hotel “footman” in white gloves, scarlet gold-trimmed tailcoat, and top hat.

A delicate silk higasa parasol for stylish protection from the sun.

An ama female monk in simple traditional robes.

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