DOWNTOWN,

or up and down?
#kyotokiss #sinkyogoku #nishikitenmangu #nishikimarket #kiyamachidori #pontocho

Kyoto's streets are laid out in a chessboard shape, and one thing you have to learn is ”agaru-sagaru(上る下る)”, up and down. So, for instance, if we say “Oike-Sanjo sagaru”, that means we have to go to the intersection of Oike Street and Sanjo Street, and in this case “sagaru” means to go down of Sanjo Street, or better South of Sanjo Street. We use also “East” and “West” to orient ourselves in the city. I remember at first it was quiet difficult for me, then I started to look for the Eastern Mountains of Kyoto, especially “Daimonji Yama(大文字山)”, the mountain with a star shape (actually it is the ideogram for “big”) enclosed in a triangle made of no trees. This way of giving directions is very typical in Kyoto, for an appointment or to tell our address to a taxi driver. The four cardinal points exist also in the addresses. I find this very interesting! Now you are ready for your “agaru-sagaru” in downtown!


Sanjo dori St.

Kyoto downtown is surrounded by Oike dori St. in the North, Kawaramachi dori St. in the East, Shijo dori St. in the South, and Karasuma dori St. in the West side. The streets run vertically and horizontally. The centre of Kyoto is a mix of old and new, modern and traditional. Machiya, typical Kyoto townhouses, stand next to elegant apartments. Shops which opened generations ago line up with the most recent brand-name shops. The heart of the city pulsates with its newest fashion and traditions. This can be seen for example in a little shrine located in Shinkyogoku St. and Nishiki St.


Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine and its symbols: cow, well, plum blossom

In the hustle and bustle of shops and crowd, there is a lovely shrine. It is called “Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine(錦天満宮)”. Young people in uniforms or extravagant look, come here to ask for help with their examination success. Sugawara Michizane, the spirit of Tenmangu Shrines, is considered to be the god of studies and business sense. The streets in downtown are noisy, but when you enter the precincts of this small shrine, you feel the spirituality is behind every corner. There is a “patting cow”. It is very important to touch first its head and then our own head, and we will become smarter! There has been a well since centuries ago and its water is “germ free”, despite its urban location. A small garden welcomes you with seasonal flower.


From Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine to Nishiki food market

Just in front of the shrine gate, you can see a lane with many shops on both sides. It is “Nishiki food market(錦市場)” street. Nishiki is famous for its fresh ingredients, and many chefs of famous “Kyo Ryory(京料理)”, Kyoto cuisine restaurants, come here to get the best vegetables or fresh fish. Recently it became famous among tourists for its colourful and lively atmosphere. You can try some Kyoto “tsukemono”, pickles, or other foods. You can see how the food is gently displayed. Visiting Nishiki is really a wonderful experience to see and to taste!

Nishiki food market


“Tsukemono”, pickels shop

In Teramachi St., North of Sanjo St., there are antique bookshops, art galleries, tea shops. The Museum of Kyoto is at the corner of Takakura St. and Sanjo St. It has very nice exhibitions, often with works from abroad. The main department stores are on Shijo Dori St. Downtown area has plenty of restaurants, cafes, traditional craft shops, and more and more.


Shijo dori st. at evening

For another interesting contrast, I would like to suggest to have a walk in the evening in Kiyamachi dori St.(木屋町通), which runs along the canal Takase(高瀬川), East side of Kawaramachi St. The area is a nightlife zone, with numerous restaurants and bars. Pontocho lane(先斗町), one street away to the East from Kiyamachi dori St., is one of the Geisha districts. Wooden houses are aligned along the narrow lane, and the traditional look is well-kept. Nowadays most of them are restaurants or “Ochaya”, the Geisha entertainment places. The two streets are connected with narrow passageways. They are often used as a short cut. You can go to the modern life-style from the old one with just a few steps.


Passageway connecting Pontocho lane and Kiyamachi dori St

Our visitor center “Kyoto Kiss” is located in a lane in Shinkyogoku St.(新京極通), Shijo dori “agaru”, East side. It is called “Kayukoji(花遊小路)”. There are some places where you can eat, interesting shops, and the lane has its own calm atmosphere comparing to the lively Shinkyogoku St. Please come to visit us for Kyoto’s information or to discover the hidden sides of this inexhaustible city!
Most streets in downtown have a roof, so you can enjoy your “agaru-sagaru” even in rainy days!