If you love food and design, Kyoto has some of the best shopping in the world. The Japanese attention to detail imbues everyday objects with irresistible personality, and you will find yourself fawning over utilitarian items such as kitchen utensils and stationery.
This covered outdoor mall in central Kyoto is in every guidebook, but it is a good place to start your Kyoto shopping spree. Nishiki Market sells a cornucopia of traditional Japanese snacks, and Teramachi Street is home to a number of designer stores. We particularly liked the large selection of traditional Japanese knives at Aritsugu. For denim-based fashion, check out 45R. Its Kyoto store offers more Japanese styles than you would see at the New York or London locations.
If L.L. Bean had been raised in Japan and gone to design school there, he would have invented Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu. This Kyoto outlet makes canvas bags, backpacks and hats. It does not currently have an online store, so Japanese families and tourists overwhelm the place at peak times.
D&Department, started by designer Nagaoka Kenmei, curates a selection everyday objects that are built to last and highlight the different regions of Japan. The small shop and café is tucked away in a charming temple square in central Kyoto. It sells a wide range of products including pens, local teas, books and designer clothing. It's the perfect spot to pick up souvenirs for friends.
There are hundreds of stationery shops in Kyoto, but we liked Uragu for its understated Japanese style. Printed notecards and paper are great gifts for both the haiku writer and the business traveler.
The Sfera building is a good place to shop and escape the rush of the Gion district. It sells a range of home goods such as designer dog beds, furniture and tea kettles. We particularly enjoyed sitting on the small patio of the downstairs café watching geisha walk near the riverside.
Stardust is a lovely hideaway of a shop. A street-side clothing and design boutique fronts a small café and patio tucked into a neighborhood on the north side of Kyoto. The store sells items from a select group of local artists and fashion designers; our vegan lunch at the café was excellent.
Naito Shoten has been selling palm brooms and brushes for the past 200 years. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes for almost any domestic use. The small, humble-looking shop is in west-central Kyoto, near the Sanjō Bridge on the Kamo River.