Teramachi Dori is an interesting long road stretching south from Kuramaguchi Dori to Gojo Dori. The two covered shopping arcades that run between Oike Dori and Shijo Dori are a small segment of it. We haven’t spent much time in the northernmost section, between Oike and Sanjo Dori. Our perambulations have taken us up and down the section from Sanjo to Shijo.
Starting from Shijo Dori, we like to pause before the articulated giant crab on the facade of Kanidouraku (かに道楽) before making our choice between whether to go down Teramachi and up Shinkyogoku or the other way around.
Not far down from the Shijo entrance is our favourite place to have a cocktail in Kyoto, Samboa Bar. The bar has a smoky atmosphere and is lined with curios, from ancient whiskey bottles to whiskey almanacs via Zimbabwean dollar bills in million denominations. The barman is taciturn, but he makes a mean martini and we’ve been lucky to encounter friendly locals as well as other tourists who have stumbled through the forbidding door looking for a quiet place to have a drink.
The bar is part of a chain established in 1918. Its sister bar in Kyoto is in Gion, and there are also branches in Osaka and Tokyo. Strangely, the website doesn’t mention either the Gion or the Teramachi bars.
The shops along Teramachi range from current fashion to bookstores and souvenirs, pharmacies and 100円 shops. There are shops selling woodblock prints, teawares, ohashi, fans and Japanese paper, as well as tenugui, kimono, hair ornaments and high end Western fashion. When we visited in Autumn 2010, we even encountered a shop specialising in Christmas decorations.
In between the shops are game arcades where you can race Mario Karts, try your hand at Taiko no Tatsujin, or waste coins on a push-penny machine or two. For a mind boggling experience, you can enter a Pachinko parlour and marvel at the deafening roar of those millions of falling ball bearings. We have never been inside a Pachinko hall, but my husband managed to sneak a photograph as the automatic doors swished open and closed again.
In the many narrow streets that link Teramachi to Shinkyogoku you can find funkier fashion, secondhand clothing stores specialising in designer labels and places to eat.
At the Shijo end of Teramachi Dori is one of our favourite shops, Super Position. Last time we were in Kyoto it was closed, we’re hoping for refurbishment as it has always been extremely busy when we’ve been in. It’s a shop that specialises in capsule toys. If you don’t fancy feeding 100円 coins into a gatchapon machine until you get the quirky miniature figure of your dreams, you can browse the shelves of Super Position until you find it. Because someone else has been to the machine and done the work for you, you’ll pay a small premium, especially if the one you’re after is a rare issue. Occasionally you’ll come across items that make you fear for the sanity of the human race, but then you’ll get over it and realise that it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen.
There’s also a two-floor manga shop on Teramachi.
At the junction with Rokkaku Dori, there’s a small triangular park featuring a mysterious striped statue by Yoshitsugu Tatsubo, who seems to have been a professor at the Kyoto City University of Arts. I haven’t been able to find much out about him or the statue, which has the date May 1990 carved into it.
The mini park is a nice place to pause and have a rest in the sunshine when you’re tired from mooching in the shops.
Shinkyogoku Dori is a more garish shopping street, with more in the way of 100円 shops, cheaper fashion and minimarts. A lot of the temples that give Teramachi its name are located along Shinkyogoku, but I’m going to blog about the temple walk we did separately.