Japan trip, day 10 – Kyoto shopping

I was determined to have a chilled out day in Kyoto today, go shopping and spend some money. I’d had a pretty hectic couple of days of sight-seeing and travelling around Japan, and then the cookery class and market trip yesterday.

So I started the day by heading to the Post Office to send some postcards and withdraw some money. The only Japanese ATMs that will take foreign Mastercard cards with a chip at the moment are post offices’, due to some technical issues, but thankfully there always seems to be one handy.

Then I headed off to the massive Bic Camera eight floor electric store beside Kyoto Station. It is jammed full of absolutely everything electronic that you could think off – from rice cookers to mobile phones and everything in between. I got a keyboard for my iPad – where I haven’t noticed it being a pain to use the on screen keyboard before, writing these blogs seemed to be taking me forever as I had to keep going back in and adding spaces when I thought I’d inserted them. Plus here it was £40 cheaper than at home – rip off Britain!

After getting that, I headed to Kyoto’s main shopping areas – I had a rough plan of what I wanted to go and look at. First stop was the department store Takashimaya. Japanese department stores are pretty upmarket, and this was no exception. I wandered around, and was tempted to buy some cooking instruments I wanted after yesterday’s class, but I felt they might be a bit pricey in that store.

Next up was a trip to a store I buy from online for the bento lunches I make to take to work. Bento & Co have a small store in Kyoto which they run their online business from as well. It was cool to pop in and see the store when I’d only seen it online before, and I picked up a couple of bits and bobs.

Then, I grabbed lunch at a Tully’s Coffee – a chain not unlike Starbucks but which weirdly sells hot dogs. It was so-so….

Yesterday on the trip round Nishiki market, Taro had taken us into a small store called Aritsugu. They’ve been in business since the 1500s, making samurai knives before switching to culinary instruments, and they’re famous throughout Japan for their knives.

After the class I read up a bit more on them and decided to go in and get a knife from them – they don’t sell online so it was a once in a lifetime chance, and – I thought – a pretty good souvenir.

The lady serving me spent a good while explaining the differences between the knives I was looking at – basically I wanted one for cutting meat and veg, but there was a choice between Western or Japanese type handles (the weighting and point of balance is different), and single or double sided blades. In the end I went with a Western style handle, double bladed knife – it just felt right in my hands.

Then I watched as the blade of my knife was finished by one of the craftsmen in store. He sharpened it before handing on to someone who engraved my name on it (and yes, I did check it was spelt correctly!). Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the knife before it was all wrapped and sealed, hence no picture here.

The lady then spent a good while with me explaining how to look after my knife – basically constantly dry it, and sharpen it around every two months with a sharpening stone. Treated well it should hopefully last me a lifetime.

I also picked up a couple of bento cutters in the store – they’re handmade as well out of steel, and I’ve always find the plastic ones never work. These are razor sharp, so should do the job.

I did a bit of clothes shopping next – picking up a shirt and three (yes three) pairs of jeans from Uniqlo. Their jeans are just really comfy – and they altered them all in half an hour for me free of charge – great service.

Yet again I had walked miles, so headed back to my apartment. I was hankering after a tonkatsu sandwich from 7-11 for dinner (I’ve read they make the best ones), so after trekking to two stores and finding the shelves empty I just made do with one from somewhere else. Tomorrow, I’d be back on the sight-seeing trail.