Kyoto’s Downtown District 0
Kawaramachi is a downtown district in Kyoto, the ancient capital city of Japan. Although Kyoto retains its classic atmosphere, Kawaramachi is a city which is said to combine both modern and traditional Japan all in one place. The best of Kawaramachi is contained in the five places we will explore here, all of which can be accessed by Hankyu Railway.
I started my journey on a Kyo-Train from Umeda Station to Hankyu Kawaramachi Station. As you walk out the station, visitors can expect to see the busy intersection of Shijo Street and Kawaramachi Street, which runs parallel to the Kamogawa River. Here, you’ll find a variety of shops that range from boutiques to traditional kimono stores. One can easily imagine that it was just busy back in Kyoto’s ancient era—filled with horses, wagons and the sound of geta (platform wooden sandals) clacking against the stone pathways beneath. Today, it is a bustling city center, full of people looking to experience the lights, sights and culture of Kyoto.
The Kamogawa River
While the Kamogawa River was once a threat to the city due to heavy flooding, it is now a peaceful place for people to enjoy strolls along its banks and experience the beauty of Kyoto. In spring, it is a popular location for hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.
Every night, the river is illuminated by nearby restaurants, which cast a romantic luminescent glow on the water. There are many stylish restaurants, cafes and dessert shops from where you can admire the river’s beauty through the changing seasons.
Nishiki Market - Traditional Shopping Arcade
A short walk from the Kamo River through the side streets of Kyoto, there is a shotengai, or shopping arcade, called Nishiki Market. Here you can find food and ingredients used in traditional Kyoto cuisine such as regional vegetables, various types of fresh and dried seafood, wagashi (Japanese confectionaries), and much more.
The items sold within Nishiki Market are a feast for the eyes: they are vibrant, plentiful, and in some cases intriguing, to visitors from abroad. Many shops offer delicious samples for you to try before committing to your purchase. Walking through this shotengai, you will feel an authentic culture unique to downtown Kyoto. It is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and is free to enter.
Yasaka Shrine is a Shinto shrine in the Gion District of Kyoto. The shrine is famous for Gion Matsuri, which takes place annually in Kyoto and is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. Ro-mon, the shrine’s red main gate, stands two stories high and wards of evil spirits before visitors enter the complex.
Up the stairs, you will see the Yasaka’s maiden, a roofed stage from which lanterns are hung and where ceremonies and rituals are performed. To the left is Yasaka’s honden, the main place of worship where visitors give offerings and pray. Making your way back through the shrine, you can enjoy a scenic view of Kawaramachi between the gates.
In front of Yasaka Shrine is a neighborhood called Gion, which was once a place for travelers to rest after their long journeys. Gion is famous for its geisha or geiko, which means a “performing artist.” These are respected women trained in various entertainment art forms, including dance, playing instruments and Japanese omotenashii (service culture). If you’re lucky, you will catch a glimpse of them walking through the district’s back alleys elegantly and swiftly.
Whether you are walking along the Kamogawa River, sampling food at the traditional shops of Nishiki Market, praying for good health at Yasaka Shrine, or spotting Geiko in Gion, Kawaramachi will show what Kyoto is all about.
Kawaramachi is easily accessed by Hankyu Railway. From Umeda Station, it takes about 43 minutes to get there. However, there’s one train in particular that will take you to view the scenic and traditional city of Kyoto in style: Hankyu Railway’s Kyo-Train. The Kyo-Train is specially designed to evoke a classic Japanese atmosphere and is covered by the HANKYU TOURIST PASS. Each section of the train offers its passengers a different experience with themed decorations. Cars one and two inspire images of blooming orchids; cars three and four offer a nostalgic feeling of a classic Kyoto town house with wooden booths and tatami backrests;
cars five and six offer a relaxing atmosphere of green hemp leaves. The Kyo-Train runs from Umeda to Juso, Awaji, Katsura, and Kawaramachi.
Only running on weekends and national holidays, the Kyo-Train allows passengers to feel as if they are taking a journey into the past to Japan’s ancient capital city, Kyoto.
From a small city of Hawaii now living in my favorite city Osaka for 3 years, Chris is now touring Japan and seeking for life's answers through his travels. Come follow him on his adventures!