While exploring tourist hot spots, some people can’t overlook the allure of the souvenir shopping scene. Souvenir shopping in Kyoto offers a colorful atmosphere with a variety of options from which to choose.
Kyoto is a city that blends traditional Japan with modern times. Being the former capital of Japan, Kyoto still is home to some of the most famous attractions in the country. Its rich history, beautiful temples and picturesque scenery make this city a magnet for tourists across the globe.
For early-bird shoppers, the majority of these shops open at 10 a.m. and close around 7 p.m., so one should make sure to get all the shopping in before the sun sets.
A great place to find souvenirs can be the streets leading up to Japan’s most renowned temples and shrines. Fushimi Inari is known for its thousands of vermillion torii (gates) and the abundant amount of fox statues. This shrine offers an array of opportunities to take home special keepsakes that can embody the experience of visiting the gates.
When exploring the streets full of vendors, people can find fox-related items, fans, pottery, ema and more. Ema is a wooden plaque that visitors can write their wishes or prayers to hang at the shrine. However, some people take these plaques home as a remembrance of the time spent at the shrine.
Like the city, souvenirs can be either more traditional or modern. For people looking for a more conventional memento, a kimono, tea set or a goshuin may be a great choice.
Goshuin are stamps, handwritten by monks, usually in personal books that are served as proof of a visit to a specific temple or shrine. For example, Fushimi Inari offers goshuin at the booth that usually sells talismans and lucky charms near the entrance inside the shrine. To learn more about goshuin, see Maya Hicks’ feature story.
The picture shows two examples of a standard goshuin.
For this special time stamp, prices vary. They tend to be between 300 to 1,000 yen (about $2 to $7 USD). Different shrines and temples can offer at least three different styles from which to choose. The more complex styles tend to cost more than an average goshuin.
Although these are mostly only seen as temples or shrines, goshuin can also be found at other popular destinations such as the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Other go-to traditional souvenirs include fans, lucky cats and Daruma dolls.
Daruma dolls are a symbol of good luck and encouragement. They are usually sold without having the eyes colored in. The eyes, left to right, symbolize the beginning and end of all things. After making a wish or whenever there is a start to a new journey, color in the dolls’ left eye. After the wish or journey comes to fruition, color in the right.
Some people would rather purchase something to put to daily use in contrast to buying something that is better unused. In this case, consider looking into buying chopsticks, a fine cutlery set or even a tote bag.
In Kyoto, there is an abundance of shops that specialize in chopsticks that offer a wide range of designs and price points to suit almost every taste.
Chopsticks are also a great gift for friends and family. They are an inexpensive alternative to some other gift options. Some places will even offer to engrave names onto them for free. This can be done in English or Japanese characters, adding a personalized touch.
For those seeking a more contemporary souvenir, Shimogyō Ward provides a delightful fusion of traditional markets, modern shopping centers and eccentric specialty stores.
Located in the Shimogyō Ward, Shijo-dori Street is the place to be for those seeking a modern shopping experience. This place is home to numerous department stores, second-hand fashion, and electronic shops. Here, locals and tourists alike can browse the latest fashion trends or find the perfect Japanese watch to take home.
Kyoto provides a fusion of traditional and modern markets as well as vendors. Every shop can offer a unique variety of trinkets, gifts and memorabilia. Take the time to explore the beautiful destinations Kyoto has to offer and stumble across charming souvenir shops along the way.
Souvenir shopping in Kyoto is not just about obtaining material objects; it can also be about capturing the spirit of the city and creating memories that can stay with anyone long after returning home.