April 14, 2008
by Takuro Yoshida
Most people who come to Kyoto walk down Shijo Street. Although people who live in Kyoto use Shijo, many visitors come to shop here because of Shijo’s many stores. I will show you just how interesting Shijo Street is and guide you along it from east to west, from Yasaka Shrine to Karasuma Street.
Shijo Street begins at the steps and gate of Yasaka Shrine at the foot of the eastern mountains. Yaska Shrine is one of Kyoto’s main tourist attractions and has many festivals. In spring, the Tango Festival is held on May 5th at the shrine to wish for the health and future of children. Within the shrine grounds are many cherry trees that bloom in April.
In summer, Gion Matsuri, one of the biggest festivals in Kyoto, is held, and Yasaka Shrine plays a major role in it. This festival has a long history, and dates from 1100, when many people in Kyoto were dying from a terrible plague. People tried to end the plague by appealing to the gods through Gion Festival. In this festival there are many kinds of floats that are taken care of by neighborhood associations. The large floats are called “hoko” and the smaller floats are called “yama.” This festival takes place over the course of one month and culminates in a mid-July parade through downtown Kyoto that ends at Yasaka Shrine, where prayers are made for the health and prosperity of the city.
In autumn, the shrine hosts Kantsuki Festival. Many people look up into the night sky and enjoy the full moon while listening to beautiful music. You will especially enjoy this shrine if you go when one of its many festivals is held.
From Yasaka Shrine to Kawabata Street, Shijo runs through the Gion district. This is the center of nightlife in Kyoto and is also known as the Geisha entertainment area.more information click here
Minamiza Kabuki Theater
The Minamiza, on the corner of Shijo and Kawabata Streets, is a very famous and traditional Japanese theater that stages mostly kabuki plays. The Minamiza is the oldest kabuki theater in Japan and was originally one of many theaters built in the seventeenth century. However most of these theaters went out of business because they were destroyed by fires in the eighteenth century. The Minamiza became the last theater of its kind to continue into modern times. The Minamiza is located near the spot where kabuki originated, on the banks of the Kamo River. Many famous Kabuki actors perform at the Minamiza. Noh and kyogen plays are performed as well. Seats cost from around ¥3000. If you are interested in Japanese traditional theater, the Minamiza is the place to go.
Kamogawa-the Kamo River
Just past the Minamiza, Shijo Street crosses a big river, and one of the famous symbols of Kyoto, the Kamogawa. There are many restaurants along the Kamogawa and people can enjoy a view of the river while dining. At the eastern end of the Shijo Bridge street performers such as folksingers, Chinese, musicians, painters and calligraphers can often be seen. And a monk can sometimes be seen standing in the middle of the bridge chanting sutras. The view of the Kamogawa from the Shijo Bridge is very beautiful.
Just after the you cross the Shijo Bridge, between Shijo and Sanjo Streets, runs a narrow alley to the north that is filled with restaurants and bars. This is Ponto-cho. Above all, I recommend Kamogawa Odori —a show of dancing and singing performed by maiko and geisha that has continued for over a century. There are several theaters, but one of the most famous is the Ponto-cho Kaburenjo (which is closer to Sanjo than to Shijo). Seats start from ¥2000. It is amazing that we can enjoy a professional geisha performance for this price. There is more information about Ponto-cho here:
After passing Kawaramachi Street on Shijo, you will encounter two shopping streets to the north that run parallel to each other: Shinkyogoku and Teramachi Street. Shinkyogoku is a shopping arcade that has over 140 shops. Many sell specialty merchandise: used military clothing, socks, and hats. I was surprised by one shop that sells only stones. There are also many restaurants and souvenir shops. Among the many shops on Shinkyogoku, I recommend London Shop, which sells manju sponge cake, and features a beautiful machine that makes it in the show window.More information about Shinkyogoku here
Compared to Shinkyogoku Street, which has many shops and people, Treamachi is a bit less crowded and wider. But it also has many good points! First, there are many food shops. You can enjoy sukiyaki, sushi, udon, takoyaki, okonomiyaki and even Indian and Italian food. There are also many traditional shops along Teramachi Street that sell traditional Kyoto crafts, Buddhist goods, woodblock prints, and teas. More information about Teramachi here
Hankyu, Takashimaya, Daimaru
Shijo Street is the location of several famous department stores. They are found on Shijo between Kawaramachi and Karasuma Streets. The first is the Hankyu Department Store on the corner of Shijo and Kawaramachi, and it mainly sells clothing, accessories, and cosmetics. Hankyu seems to be popular among women who like to go shopping.
Opposite Hankyu is the Takashimaya Department Store. Takashimaya sells many different kinds of merchandise, including clothing, foods, furniture, cosmetics, kitchen ware, and toys. It has many restaurants and an art gallery. It is very fun to enjoy window-shopping at Takashimaya.Fuji Daimaru is the biggest department store in Kyoto and close to the intersection of Shijo-Karasuma. It sells almost everything.
Fuji Daimaru is known among young people for its casual clothes. Recently, the specialty hat store CA4LA was opened in Daimaru. Its hats are very stylish, yet the prices are very reasonable. Whenever you go to these department stores, you will be able to enjoy your shopping very much!
Shijo Street has many great shops and sights. When you come to Kyoto, try walking from Yasaka Shrine to Karasuma Street along Shijo Street.