August 28, 2016
By Yumika Fujii, Erika Wada & Konomi Shimbashi
There are many shopping stores in the Kawaramachi shopping district in downtown Kyoto. The name of the district comes from Kawaramachi-dori, which is one of the main streets running north and south in Kyoto city. People who live in Kyoto and Kansai call the entire area ‘Kawaramachi’. There are many popular places in Kawaramachi, such as big amusement arcades, fast food shops, fashion buildings, department stores and so on. In addition, there are some famous places, such as Gion and Yasaka Shrine near Kawaramachi, so you can go there on foot. Both young people and elderly people can enjoy themselves in Kawaramachi because there are many traditional souvenir shops and modern restaurants. But among those, one historical place to shop is an impressive building called Kyoto BAL. The Kyoto BAL building has a long history of about 40 years, and a lot of people have loved it for a long time. However, recently it closed for 2-and-a-half years in order to rebuild and change the concept of the store.
The BAL has two stores in Japan: in Kyoto and Hyogo. The Kyoto BAL is located just south of the intersection of Kawaramachi Street and Sanjo Street, on the east side of Kawaramachi. There are 8 floors, 2 in the basement and 6 above the ground, including 33 shops. Kyoto BAL was first built in November, 1970, as a building devoted to fashion-related shops that has a lot of attractive merchandise. Therefore, many people come to shop at BAL and they have loved it for a long time. The original concept of BAL is the place where a lot of people can get together, like a party in France.
Recently, BAL has been closed down for renovation. The purpose was not only to change its appearance, but also its interior and concept. The result was a business space that three generations of parent, child, and grandparent can enjoy together. For example, there is the Café and Meal MUJI on the fourth floor, which is a café where you can enjoy the natural flavor of vegetables or fruits. This would be attractive to parents and grandparents. Children, on the other hand, can enjoy the colorful goods at Flying Tiger Copenhagen of Kyoto BAL annex, which is also located on Kawaramachi-dori. There is also the Tiger SpilBar on the third floor, where you can enjoy playing table tennis, table soccer, the board games, and so on. In addition, people can drink a glass of beer or a cup of coffee, so adults can enjoy it, too.
The Appearance and The Interior
The appearance and the interior was significantly changed in 2015. The inner and outer appearance of the BAL is like a traditional American luxury hotel. The floor is made of wood, and the aisles is quite wide. In addition, there are many windows on each floor, giving a bright and expansive feeling to customers when they shop. Furthermore, a lot of sofas are set around the elevator hall, near the escalator, and also inside the shops on each floor so that customers can take a rest while shopping. Especially, the restroom for women on the 4th floor is bigger than any other, and is based on a beautiful white space, giving it a European atmosphere.
For many years, the book store called Maruzen was a Kyoto BAL mainstay. However, it disappeared from the BAL building in the mid-2000s for about 10 years. Fortunately, however, the historic Maruzen bookstore is back in the Kyoto BAL again. Maruzen is famous for the novel, Lemon (檸檬), written by Motojirou Kajii (梶井基次郎). Motojirou Kajii was born on February 17th, 1901 in Osaka, and his life ended when he was only 30-years-old. He was a Japanese novelist, and he continued to write a lot of novels while he struggled with disease. Therefore, he is the one of the most famous novelists because he wrote a novel which combined the sensory with the perceptual. It is said that the famous novel, Lemon, is one of his masterpieces. In the novel, Maruzen is one of the featured locations. For this reason, Maruzen and Lemon will forever be intertwined.
Maruzen was first built in 1872 and then relocated to Sanjo Street in 1907. After that it was relocated in its current spot in 1940, but in 2005 it closed down. During its existence, many fans of the novel, Lemon, put real lemons in front of the Maruzen while they felt sad. And now that is back in new Kyoto BAL, it is bigger than ever, spanning both the 1st and 2nd floors of the basement including a cafeteria where people can taste Lemon cake. Also, it features about 1 million Japanese books, including manga (comic) and study-aid books, and about 70 thousand foreign books. In additional, it has not only books, but also writing materials. Now that Maruzen is back, Lemon fans can once again put out real lemons when they feel sad. As you can see, although there are many shops in the Kawaramachi district of Kyoto, it is Kyoto BAL that is one of the most historic and attractive buildings in the area. If you visit Kyoto, why don’t you go to Kyoto BAL and enjoy your time with family and friends.
Access to the Kyoto BAL
251 Yamazaki-cho, Kawaramachi-Sanjo Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-city, KYOTO, Japan You can go there by taxi easily, if you tell this address to a taxi driver. It takes seven minutes on your foot from Kawaramachi station, Hankyu It takes eight minutes on your foot from Sanjo station, Keihan It takes five minutes on your foot from Shijo Kawaramachi, bus stop of Kyoto City Bus.