Kyoto’s Old Market Streets
“Shotengai” means covered shopping arcades. Kyoto’s shotengai are fantastic if you want to catch a glimpse of local life as most began as clusters of shops serving local communities. Kyoto has a number of shopping arcades which have adapted to cater to tourist crowds. A few examples are Nishiki Market, Teramachi Street and Shinkyogoku Street which consistently pull in travelers looking to shop. One of the best shotengai, however, is Sanjo-kai Shotengai – not to be confused with the more famous Sanjo Meitengai Shotengai further east, which intersects with Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping streets.
Sanjo-kai Shotengai has been around since the late 1860s, having begun life as a cluster of enterprising merchants setting up their shops along the street. This was also the area where Japan’s first film was reputedly shot. Now, it prides itself on being the longest “completely covered and unbroken shopping arcade” in Japan
Kyoto’s ancient covered market streets offer a wonderful look at what is left of the old market stalls and ways of life that was Japan everywhere until the 1960’s. Kyoto has quite a few of these special streets left and most of them are not open to cars. Here you will see fish shops and vegetable shops spilling out on to street, next to tiny tofu and sweet shops. You will also find these streets are one of the best places to see the older people of Japan shopping, gossiping and joking.