Thursday, October 19, 2006
Running north-south between Kawaramachi and Karasuma in Kyoto's downtown, Teramachi Dori (street) is an ancient shopping street that is now a pedestrian arcade with a roof.
The name of the street translates as "temple town" or "temple neighborhood." It was so named in the late 1500s when the city was recovering after almost 100 years of nearly continuous warfare. Toyotomi Hideyoshi moved many temples onto the street, where, though not nearly as famous as other Kyoto tourist sites, they remain today.
Today it is not the temples that bring the masses to Teramachi; it is the shopping. It is eclectic, if nothing else. You can buy prayer beads (see below left), happi coats, hanko (a personal stamp all Japanese have that is used for official documents), and other traditional Japanese goods. Then, literally next door, is a junky trinket shop catering to the fourteen-year-old tourist market, and then a hip hop clothing store, and next to that a pachinko parlor, and then a 300-year-old restaurant.
Thanks though to the relative decline of Kawaramachi--which was a protective wall until 1868, then an elegant shopping boulevard until about five years ago, and now is nearly all pachinko and karaoke parlors--higher end stores are moving west towards Karasuma, some of which have set up shop on Teramachi. Among them is the Random Walk book store, which has a wide range of English-language books. At right is a funky book store devoted to manga and anime.
Also of interest is Nishiki Market, a narrow market arcade that runs east-west. This is Kyoto's outdoor food market and has been at this location since the Heian Period. It is wonderful for snacking and photos. The street runs from the back entrance of Daimaru Department store for four or five blocks. It features fish, local vegetables, beans, maneki neko beckoning cats, and the constant cries of the vendors.
Back on Teramachi, teenagers are still heavily represented, but well-heeled tourists and Kyotoites are quickly overtaking them. I avoided the street for many years, especially the stretch from Shijo Dori to Sanjo Dori, but on a recent swing through downtown found more and more worth seeing and doing.
Listen to the hip hop sounds of Teramachi.
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