Christmas shopping in Kyoto

By | Category: Travel destinations
Blossom time in Kyoto which is the most popular time to visit. Try before Christmas instead

Blossom time in Kyoto which is the most popular time to visit. Try before Christmas instead

It isn’t uncommon for us to fly overseas on shopping trips. The duty free markets in France once enticed us then shopping in New York became popular. But how do you fancy Christmas shopping in Japan’s former capital, Kyoto?

Kyoto has many attractions for the visitor but up until now, I hadn’t thought of it as a shopping venue and certainly not as a 12-13 hour flight away retail attraction.

It has one big benefit over many destinations in that you can buy tax-free and get that discount off at the store when you buy. In many countries you have t send your receipts away and await a cheque of bank transfer. It can even worse if you have to get early to the airport on the way back in order to queue up – and those queues can be very long – and get your tax refund that way.

The second advantage is that the yen has dropped against sterling. Two years ago you might have got 130 yen for a pound. Now that will be closer to 190 giving you almost 50% more for your money. But does that justify the cost in flying there and spending a few nights in a hotel. The answer has to be no. the reason you would shop in Kyoto as opposed to London, Edinburgh or Dublin is that you want to visit Kyoto in the first place. Visiting the heritage sites, seeing the Zen gardens, the Imperial Palace and temples is why you go; shopping is a bonus.

Textiles, personalised wooden signs and traditional paper fans can be good value but that is the same any time of the year. Why visit the city for Christmas shopping when many would argue that Spring, when the cherry blossom emerges, is a better time? The answer is that, just like many other cities around the world, Kyoto does something a little different in the run up to Christmas. Temples and shrines are illuminated by lanterns for special night-time viewings at Arashivama Hanatouro in the west of the city. More active visitors who find their way out of the shops can walk the 5km loop taking in the illuminated All Bamboo Forest, Flower Promenade and the Togetsukyo Bridge, foothills and waterfront.

Christmas is a Christian celebration and readers will know that Japan doesn’t have a Christian heritage. But that doesn’t stop them decorating stores, having extravagant window displays and sales before Christmas Day itself.


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