25 July 2014, Friday, Cloudy, 25ºC – 38ºC
We woke early today, but took our time to snooze in bed because Baby E was still unwell. The sun rose before 5.00 am, and the sun’s rays filtered into our room through the shoji (wooden lattices with Japanese paper made up the window of our hotel room). We allowed Baby E to sleep as late as she could and went down to have breakfast in the hotel’s Italian Restaurant RoccAcciO at around 9.3o am.
Baby E got better as the day went by. As we could only check into Hiiragaya ryokan at 3.00 pm, and in view of Baby E’s illness, we asked for a late checkout at 12 noon. We really appreciate that Hotel Vista Premio Kyoto Kawaramachi Street very kindly offered us a complimentary extension.
By noon, the sun was scorching hot and glaring at us as we left the hotel and walked to Hiiragaiya, which was thankfully, only about 8 min walking distance away. Although we couldn’t check in yet, at least they allowed us to leave our luggage in their foyer.
It was 38ºC that afternoon, to help us cope with the sweltering summer temperatures, Hiiragiya was very thoughtful to hand us a large bottle of frozen isotonic drink, a towel, and fans as we prepared to leave the comfortable establishment, in search for food fit for lunch!
As our previous hotel and Hiiragiya are both centrally located around downtown, given that we had 2.5 hrs to spare, naturally, our first port of call was to explore the Teramachi shopping arcade and the numerous side streets that run along it. Despite the plethora of cultural attractions and more affluent high-end department stores nearby, the allure of the bright and vibrant atmosphere, exciting displays and what-seemed-like endless rows of shops that constitute the shopping arcade, it seemed too impossible to resist the pull of attraction towards it.
Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade
These two parallel-running, covered shopping arcades are packed with shops of various characteristics, and touted as one of the most popular shopping streets in all of Kyoto. Located right in the middle of downtown Kyoto, these two streets form the heart of Kyoto’s main shopping district. Branching off Shijo Street around the Kawaramachi intersection are the Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades.
There are some sections that are more refined, occupied by art galleries, bookshops, and cafes. Other sections include a number of restaurants offering different cuisines such as traditional and modern fusion Japanese, Italian, French, etc. There are also a myriad of interesting Japanese-style confectionery outlets, which sell every type of Japanese-style sweet and savoury foods.
Kyoto Nishiki Food Market
Nishiki Market is a colorful narrow food market street that is about 400m long. The market branches off from Teramachi about 100 meters north of Shijo Street and continues to Takakura. During the early morning hours, the parallel lines of shops on both sides of the street open their eager doors to sell Kyo-Yasai, tofu, fish, eel, fruits, and all sorts of fresh food items – It is a virtual treasure trove for many special food and cultural products of Kyoto. We found ourselves strolling and eating as we explored the market together, noticing that everything from fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, croquets to soy milk doughnuts on sale here are all of the highest quality. The Nishiki Market is also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” because it has served as the kitchen of Kyoto since the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1558-1600).
The nibbles we sampled in Nishiki Market were tasty, but not enough to satisfy our growling stomachs. Hence, we journeyed on towards the main shopping street → Shijo-dori, where most of the large departmental stores such as Daimaru and Takashimaya are situated. Since Takashimaya is my all-time favourite shopping mall in Singapore, it is inevitable that we went there to check it out! Turned out we had most of what we had wanted to do done right there – Withdrew money at level 7 where the international ATMs are located; utilised the cozy nursing rooms situated in levels 5 and 7; shopped for SK II; ate at basement food level! There was a food stall selling a large variety of my favourite korokkes (croquettes)! We bought some and had them as lunch, because we knew dinner would be an elaborate multi-course Keiseki dinner at the ryokan.
Most of the walkways in Kyoto are shaded by wide awnings that provide shelter from the sun and rain on both sides of the street. We were thankful that the hot and humid afternoon was made bearable by these covered sidewalks.
We walked back to Hiiragiya ryokan and spent the rest of the day chillaxing in it. The next post details our ryokan experience.