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Frommer's shopping in Kyoto

As the nation's capital for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto spawned a number of crafts and exquisite art forms that catered to the elaborate tastes of the imperial court and the upper classes.
Teramachi Shopping Gallery
The Teramachi Shopping Gallery is seen in this file photo. Kyoto offers plenty of shopping options for just about anyone with money burning a hole in their pockets.Stefano Amantini / Corbis file
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As the nation's capital for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto spawned a number of crafts and exquisite art forms that catered to the elaborate tastes of the imperial court and the upper classes. Kyoto today is still renowned for its crafts, including Nishijin textiles, Yuzen-dyed fabrics, Kyo pottery (pottery fired in Kyoto), fans, dolls, cutlery, gold-leaf work, umbrellas, paper lanterns, combs, Noh masks, cloisonné, and lacquerware.

Great Shopping Areas
The majority of Kyoto's tiny specialty shops are situated in central Kyoto along Shijo Dori and in the area of Kawaramachi Dori. The square formed by Kawaramachi Dori, Shijo Dori, Sanjo Dori, and Teramachi Dori includes two covered shopping arcades and specialized shops selling lacquerware, combs and hairpins, knives and swords, tea and tea-ceremony implements, and more -- including, of course, clothing and accessories.

If you're looking for antiques, woodblock prints, and art galleries, head toward Shinmonzen Dori and Furumonzen Dori in Gion, which parallel Shijo Dori to the north on the eastern side of the Kamo River. You'll find pottery and souvenir shops in abundance on the roads leading to Kiyomizu Temple in Higashiyama-ku.

For clothing, accessories, and modern goods, Kyoto's many department stores are good bets. They're conveniently located near Kyoto Station or in the heart of Nakagyo-ku near the Shijo-Kawaramachi intersection. In addition, there's a big underground shopping mall called Porta that radiates from the Karasuma (north) side of Kyoto Station; its boutiques sell everything from clothing and shoes to stationery. And inside Kyoto Station itself, The Cube shopping mall, in the first and second basements, has dozens of boutiques selling clothing and accessories as well as local souvenirs and crafts.

Department Stores
Department stores are good places to shop for Japanese items and souvenirs, including pottery, lacquerware, and kimono as well as clothing and everyday items.

JR Kyoto Isetan, located in Kyoto Station (tel. 075/352-1111; open daily 10 a.m. -7:30 p.m.; closed occasional Tues), is Kyoto's most fashionable department store for young people, specializing in women's imported and domestic clothing. Across the street is Kintetsu, Karasuma Dori (tel. 075/361-1111; open daily 10 a.m. -7:30 p.m.; closed some Thurs), convenient for all those necessities from film to toiletries to food.

In Central Kyoto, Daimaru, on Shijo Dori west of Takakura (tel. 075/211-8111; open daily 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.), is Kyoto's largest department store, with everything from clothing to food to electronic goods spread on nine floors. Nearby are Hankyu, on the southeast corner of Shijo-Kawaramachi intersection (tel. 075/223-2288; open daily 10:30 a.m. -8 p.m.; closed some Tues), with seven floors of fashion, housewares, and food; and Takashimaya, across the street at the southwest corner of the Shijo-Kawaramachi intersection (tel. 075/221-8811; open daily 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.; closed some Wed), one of Japan's oldest and most respected department stores with a good selection of traditional crafts.

On the 21st of each month, a flea market is held at Toji Temple (tel. 075/691-3325), about a 15-minute walk southwest of Kyoto Station. Japan's largest flea market, it's also one of the oldest; its history stretches back more than 700 years, when pilgrims began flocking to Toji Temple to pay their respects to Kobo Daishi, who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Today, Toji Temple is still a center for the Shingon sect, and its market (popularly known as Kobo-san) is a colorful affair with booths selling Japanese antiques, old kimono, ethnic goods, odds and ends, and many other items. Worshippers come to pray before a statue of Kobo Daishi and to have their wishes written on wooden slats by temple calligraphers. Even if you don't buy anything, the festive atmosphere of the market and booths makes a trip here a memorable experience. The largest Kobo-san markets take place in December and January. All markets at Toji are held from about 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. A smaller market, devoted entirely to Japanese antiques, is held at Toji Temple on the first Sunday of each month.

Commemorating the scholar and poet Sugawara Michizane, the Tenjin-san market held at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (tel. 075/461-0005) the 25th of every month is a large market offering a little bit of everything -- antiques, used clothing, ceramics, food -- in a beautiful setting. It's open from about 8am to dusk, but go as early as you can. Kitano Shrine is on Imadegawa Dori between Nishi-oji and Senbon; take the Chin-Chin bus no. 101 to the Kitano Tenmangu-mae stop.

Unlike the other temple markets, the Chion-ji market (tel. 075/691-3325), held the 15th of each month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., is devoted to handmade goods and crafts, including pottery and clothing. To reach it, take bus no. 206 to Hyakumanben at the Higashioji and Imadegawa intersection; Chion-ji Temple is just to the northeast.

Although you may not buy anything to take home with you, a stroll through the Nishiki-Koji Dori market is worthwhile just for the atmosphere. Kyoto's 400-year-old city produce market, this covered shopping arcade 1 block north of Shijo Dori in the heart of old Kyoto is lined with vendors selling fish, flowers, eggs, pickled vegetables, fruit, and takeout foods. It's open from 10 a.m. to about 6 p.m.; some shops close on either Wednesday or Sunday.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed shops, visit our online shopping index.

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