Just back from Japan with the latest Kyoto shopping recommendations! Here’s where to shop in Kyoto for Imabari towels, makeup brushes, organic skin care, tea, incense and room wear.
Once you have used Imabari towels, you’ll never go back to your old towels. I was converted to the famous towels from the town of Imabari where making towels is a 100+ year tradition. The towels are lightweight and extremely absorbent. They come in a huge variety of sizes and in beautiful designs. Warning: Imabari towels are addictive! I found a small shop in Kyoto that carries Imabari towels. It is called Iori and it is located on the Sanjo Street shopping arcade between Kawaramachi street and Teramachi street. If you are walking from Kawaramachi street, duck into the Sanjo-dori arcade and it’s on your right side. They speak English and take credit cards. Lots of beautiful things to get as gifts, too!
Hakuhodo opened a gorgeous shop in October 2014 on Teramachi street. The Hakuhodo shop is a minimalist space enshrined in a modern concrete edifice that houses the entire collection of Hakuhodo makeup brushes. I’ve been using Hakuhodo’s brushes for years! They last forever: no shedding even after you’ve washed them many times. There’s a brush for every single function — for applying powder blush or cream blush, liquid foundation, setting powder, concealer, everything. Address: 715-1 Yohojimaecho, Teramachi-dori Nijo-agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0916. It’s just down the street from Ippodo Tea, another recommended place to buy tea (see below).
(3) Ippodo tea
Ippodo is famous for its tea. There are so many different kinds and you have to go there to taste the tea before you buy. My favourite is iribancha described on the Ippodo website as follows: “After the first tea picking of the year, leaves, stems and small twigs from the lower portions of the tea plant are collected, steamed, dried (but not rolled), and roasted at high heat. The result is an unmistakably unique smoky flavor and aroma, somewhat similar to the smell of a campfire or bonfire.” Iribancha has a deep, warm, rich tobacco-like aroma and it’s nothing like green tea or any other kind of tea you’ve had before. Address of the Kyoto shop on Teramachi Street: Teramachi-dori Nijo, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0915.
If you are near the beginning or end of the Philosopher’s Walk, check out this gem of a store called Chidoriya which sells lovely organic Japanese skin care products, all of which are very gentle on the skin, and a delightful collection of brushes, fabric clutch bags and cosmetic bags.
It’s just the place to buy gifts for your girlfriends, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother — the special women in your life. I recommend the organic soaps, toners, oils and moisturizers, and also the silk kimono clutch bags. It’s located on Shishigatani Street in Kyoto. If you do a Google Map search for “Chidoriya Shishigatani Kyoto”, you will see it marked.
(5) Shoyeido incense
The Shoyeido incense flagship store is in Kyoto, on the busy Karasuma street, between the Marutamachi and Karasuma-Oike subway stops (along the Karasuma subway line). They have been making incense since 1705 and the Kyoto store has an excellent selection of incense and exquisite incense holders.
(6) Gelato Pique for the cutest room wear
Japanese “room wear” is nothing like what we call “lounge wear” or sweats for sitting around the house. It’s cuter, made of the softest fabrics and comes in the most adorable designs. They have hoodies, lingerie, swimsuits, long and short dresses, shorts, baby and chidren’s wear, slippers, cotton pajamas, bathrobes, tank tops, and bath products. I came across the Gelato Pique store in The Cube, the shopping center located on the B2 level of the Kyoto central train station and I couldn’t resist the super-soft fabrics in pastel colours. They carry an array of cute gifts for children and adults, too.
TAX-FREE SHOPPING IN JAPAN
Read this post about tax-free shopping in Japan. You should bring your passport to the store. Some shops like Tokyu Hands give you a 5% off card when you show your passport, so you don’t need to go to any tax-free counter. Just show the card at the cashier. Other stores such as Takashimaya and Isetan require you to bring all your receipts to the tax-free desk, then they go through the laborious process of writing everything down on piece of paper (in duplicate). They staple one copy to your passport and the passport control officer removes it when you leave Japan. They don’t check whether you have your items with you, so you can put them in your baggage for check-in.