April 14, 2008
A Vibrant Local Shopping Street:
A shotengai is a Japanese shopping street which has many kinds of shops standing closely together. It may contain a supermarket, clothing stores, fruit and vegetable shops, cafés, restaurants, barbershops and hair salons, book stores, specialty shops, a post office, often a koban (police box), and so on. Some shotengai are arcaded and are blocked off to traffic. But unfortunately, many shotengai have been vanishing because of recently increasing big shopping malls.
Sanjo-kai Shotengai remains one of the liveliest shopping streets in Kyoto. Located in the city center, the west gate is a five-minute walk from JR Nijo Station, and the east gate is ten-minute walk from Nijo Castle. Running between Horikawa and Sembon Streets it is an 800-meter-long arcade and has about 180 shops. This is a community-based shotengai, enjoying a good relationship with its local neighbors. For example, you will find flags flying along the street with safety slogans made by local schoolchildren. Also, there is a park in the arcade: children can play there while their mothers or fathers do their shopping. In the morning and evening, many people pass through this street to go to their offices or schools, because there are no traffic lights and it is traffic-free (14:00-21:00). This shotengai is also proud that Mizuki Noguchi, the gold-medal marathon runner at the 2004 Athens Olympics, uses this street for her training on rainy days. However, be careful of bikes since there are a lot of people riding them here as well.
Sanjo-kai Shotengai has various kinds of specialty shops — a tofu seller, Japanese-style confection shop (wagashiya), shoe-repair shop and cycle shop — and recently more people of all age groups come to the shotengai because new stores targeting young people, such as cafés and beauty salons, have opened. Some of them are situated in converted machiya (traditional wooden townhouses). One characteristic of these shops is that the entrance is small but the interior is spacious, so you can enjoy, for example, a blending of Japanese and Western tastes in a coffee shop. Sanjo-kai Shotengai is a shopping street loved by local people, and it is adopting modern culture while keeping the warmth of traditional shotengai.