January 23, 2014
By Chihiro Nakagawa and MayaInoue
When you arrive at Kyoto Station, the first thing that will probably catch your attention will be Kyoto Tower. However, what you won’t see are the crowds of people that fill the shopping mall beneath Kyoto Station every day. Many of them are visitors to Kyoto who come here to buy souvenirs before they head home.
When you arrive after a long train ride, you may feel tired. Some of you might wonder if there are any cafes, restaurants or shops nearby. By descending the escalators or stairs in front of Kyoto Station you will encounter a huge underground shopping mall with all different kinds of souvenir shops, clothing stores, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and even a Starbucks coffeeshop. This commercial zone is called Porta.
Porta first opened in 1980 and was the first underground shopping mall in Kyoto. Later, another underground mall was built (with parking lot and subway entrances) below Oike Street, between Kawaramachi and Karasuma streets. Porta was refurbished in 1997 at the same time the new Kyoto Station was being built. In 2009, it was also renovated again on an even larger scale. In 2014, Porta will be refurbished again. Adjoining Porta, there is a smaller shopping area whose name is The Cube.Porta and The Cube are interconnected. There are many more stores in Porta, although the Cube features more fashion shops.
Also in Porta there are several stores that specialize in popular Kyoto foods and souvenirs, such as yatsuhashi (a cinnamon-flavored confection), macha (powdered green tea), baumukuchen (a western-style cake). Of course, there are not only foods and sweets but also local products such as dyed fabrics, fans, pottery, tea implements and so on. There is an information office next to the centrally located Starbucks. And nearby you can find some ATMs. The office provides guide maps to Porta in several different languages.
Here is the Porta Shopping Guide. It gives you the locations of Porta’s many shops, restaurants, and cafes. On the left side of this map are some restaurants that offer all kinds of meals—Italian, Chinese, deep-fried pork cutlets, soba noodles, udon noodles, deserts and of course Japanese specials. You can easily find toilets that are clean and easy to use on this map. When you open the Guide further, it shows pictures of the cuisine offered by the various restaurants and cafes in the mall. This is helpful in deciding where to go and eat!
One restaurant we especially want to recommend to visitors is Harvest. This restaurant uses only natural organic foods on their large menu.
Harvest also serves vegetables made in Kyoto, which are called kyo-yasai. The menu is good and healthy. Harvest is buffet style,
so for ¥1500 you can eat a variety of different dishes and soups and go back for more. Of course, the other restaurants in Porta are worth trying too!
Porta’s theme character is called “Portan” (see photo). Portan can be seen entertaining people up and down the mall, especially during Christmas season. You can buy goods based on this cute character in Porta.
As you can see, there are many attractions in here. When you arrive in Kyoto in the morning, you can pick up breakfast and have a cup of cofee before you begin your sightseeing. And when you leave Kyoto you can have dinner and pick up souvenirs. Porta is an especially convenient place for visitors who come to Kyoto by train!