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, as well as Teramachi Dori north of Oike. 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 central Kyoto near the Shijo-Kawaramachi intersection. In addition, there's a big underground shopping mall beneath Kyoto Station selling everything from clothing and shoes to stationery and local souvenirs.
Department Stores -- Department stores are good places to shop for Japanese items and souvenirs, including pottery, lacquerware, and kimono as well as clothing, foodstuff, and everyday items.
JR Kyoto Isetan, located in Kyoto Station (tel. 075/352-1111; daily 10am-8pm), is Kyoto's most fashionable department store for young people, specializing in women's imported and domestic clothing.
In central Kyoto, Daimaru, on Shijo Dori west of Takakura (tel. 075/211-8111; daily 10am-8pm), 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; Mon-Wed 11am-8pm, Thurs-Sun 11am-9pm), 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; daily 10am-8pm), one of Japan's oldest and most respected department stores with a good selection of traditional crafts.
Markets -- 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, a World Heritage Site, 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. Worshipers 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 memorable. The largest Kobo-san markets take place in December and January. All markets at Toji are held from about 6am to 4pm. 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 bus no. 10, 26, 101, 102, and 203 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 9am to 4pm, is devoted to handmade goods and crafts, including pottery and clothing. To reach it, take bus no. 17, 102, 201, 203, or 206 to Hyakumanben at the Higashioji and Imadegawa intersection; Chion-ji Temple is just to the northeast.
On the first Sunday of every month (though sometimes the date changes), a flea market is held in front of City Hall from 10am to 4pm, with local citizens selling unwanted stuff, mostly clothing. 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, as well as crafts. It's open from 10am to about 6pm; some shops close on either Wednesday or Sunday.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.