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Naramachi Area: A Day of Food and Shopping while Touring the Charming Streets of Nara

Naramachi Area: A Day of Food and Shopping while Touring the Charming Streets of Nara

Date published: 11 October 2019
Last updated: 4 November 2020

Naramachi is one of Nara's premiere sightseeing locations. Almost the entire area is within the former grounds of Gango-ji Temple, and there are many townhouses (machiya) from the Edo period.

Restaurants, cafes, and shops utilizing these townhouses are located throughout the area, making it perfect for leisurely exploring.

Here we will introduce recommended food and shopping opportunities in and around Naramachi.

Table of Contents
  1. 1. spaceROKU-the 3rd street: Grab a sweet deer character "ROKU" as a souvenir
  2. 2. Machiya Cafe Kanna: Enjoy Nara-related food and sweets
  3. 3. Yoshida Kaya: Hand towels using Nara-made mosquito net cloth
  4. 4. Harushika Sake Brewery: Enjoy sake tasting at a Naramachi brewery
  5. 5. Satoden Masuo Shoten: Nab some Naramachi souvenirs at a historic sugar shop

1. spaceROKU-the 3rd street: Grab a sweet deer character "ROKU" as a souvenir

1. spaceROKU-the 3rd street: Grab a sweet deer character "ROKU" as a souvenir
ROKU stuffed toys (large 4,101 yen, small 2,700 yen, tax included)

Take Yasuragi-no-michi street south from Kintetsu Nara Station or Sanjo-dori street east from JR Nara Station, and diagonally across from the Nara City tourist center "NARANICLE" is a small shop called "spaceROKU-the 3rd street" which sells goods based on Nara's deer mascot, ROKU.

With their sweet and gentle expressions, the adorable ROKU mascot has many fans and is especially popular with foreign tourists, not only because of their cuteness but also because of the story world behind them.

Born in Nara Park, there’s the boy deer, ROKU, a pink girl deer, Hana-chan, the teacher, Daibutsu-sensei, and more characters to enjoy.

Let's take a look at the top three most popular items in the shop. First, there's the pastel-colored ROKU YOU T-shirts (2,160 yen, tax included). They come in four colors, with the children's sizes 80-130 cm coming in three colors, so parents and kids can even get matching sets.

With the plastic and metal badges, you can enjoy ROKU wearing many different facial expressions. The stuffed toys are also popular. In fall 2018, a large sized toy wearing a bandanna was released.

The postcards which come out seasonally also make great gifts or souvenirs. Apparently, some fans have even collected all 70 varieties. There are both standard types, like the Nara and friend versions, and seasonal types.

  • spaceROKU-the 3rd street-
    spaceROKU-the 3rd street-
    • Address 8-1 Kamisanjo, Nara City, Nara
    • Nearest Station a 3-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Line "Kintetsu Nara" Station, or a 9-minute walk from JR Yamatoji Line "Nara" Station
    • Phone Number 0742-81-9006
    • Business Hours: 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM
      Scheduled Closings: none

2. Machiya Cafe Kanna: Enjoy Nara-related food and sweets

2. Machiya Cafe Kanna: Enjoy Nara-related food and sweets

From "space ROKU", passing through Mochiido shopping street and taking the next road south will bring you to Machiya Cafe Kanna. This Japanese cafe, filled with the ambiance of the 100-year-old townhouse, is acclaimed as a place where you can eat quintessential Nara food and sweets.

The Yamato tea rice porridge (Yamato no chagayu - 1,000 yen, tax included) is Nara traditional cuisine along with a delightful presentation. Replicate cooking practices of the past by putting the thin rice cakes (kaki-mochi) onto the clay stove (shichirin) and brushing soy sauce onto the mochi while it cooks, then listen to the mochi fizzle when you place it into the rice porridge.

The sea bream-broth tea on rice (tai dashi chazuke - 1,100 yen, tax included) and the hitsumabushi-style conger eel rice bowl (anago-don, hitsumabushi-fuu - 1,200 yen, tax included) also come highly recommended.

Matcha chocolate fondue, 1,100 yen (tax included)

The cafe's desserts are also popular. The most popular, the matcha chocolate fondue, you can eat by dipping cookies, arrowroot cakes (kuzu-mochi), and other sweets and fruits into the special matcha sauce made with a generous helping of Yamato green tea. For further enjoyment, heat up the remaining matcha sauce and add milk to make a matcha latte.

Kanna small box 1,350 yen (tax included) / comes with matcha tea

The Kanna no kobako set (Kanna small box) is a three-layered box of over 10 kinds of traditional Japanese desserts. It's exciting to open each new layer, and with three-colored dumplings, cherry blossom mochi cakes (sakura-mochi), and arrowroot cake pudding (kuzu-mochi), this set is particularly recommended for girls with an appetite to try lots of different sweets.

In addition, customers love the seasonally changing items that are always on the menu, such as the strawberry chocolate fondue in the spring, matcha milk shaved ice made with iced milk and condensed milk, potato fondue in autumn, and kuzumochi amazake (a sweet fermented rice drink) in the winter.

  • Machiya Cafe Kanna
    町屋かふぇ 環奈
    • Address 19-2 Nishiterabayashi-cho, Nara City, Nara
    • Nearest Station an 8-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Line "Kintetsu Nara" Station, or a 12-minute walk from JR Yamatoji Line "Nara" Station
    • Phone Number 0742-25-2150
    • Business Hours: 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
      Scheduled Closings: closed irregularly

3. Yoshida Kaya: Hand towels using Nara-made mosquito net cloth

3. Yoshida Kaya: Hand towels using Nara-made mosquito net cloth

At last, we arrive in Naramachi. One souvenir most representative of Naramachi are the Naramachi hand towels from Yoshida Kaya. The shop has striking, pitch-black lattice windows, and is located in an area still particularly thick with an air of the past.

Since its establishment in 1921, Yoshida Kaya has been using specific techniques to manufacture and sell mosquito net material and has become popular for utilizing those techniques to produce other goods, including not only hand towels but also placemats, stoles, and more.

The shop's main product, Naramachi hand towels (dyed, 420 yen, tax included), are carefully and individually handmade using mosquito netting cloth that is a specialty product from Nara. This cloth absorbs water incredibly well and is resistant to fuzzing, and it also stays clean, easily washable with a quick rinse of water.

The cloth's durability and resistance to wear and tear is another bonus. These cloths' usefulness and budget-friendly prices make them popular as Nara souvenirs. You can select your favorite from over 18 standard colors. Nara's symbolic color, olive green, sells especially well.

  • Yoshida Kaya
    吉田蚊帳
    • Address 1 Shibashinya-cho, Nara City, Nara
    • Nearest Station a 13-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Line "Kintetsu Nara" Station, or a 17-minute walk from JR Yamatoji Line "Nara" Station
    • Phone Number 0742-23-3381
    • Business Hours: 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
      Scheduled Closings: every Monday

4. Harushika Sake Brewery: Enjoy sake tasting at a Naramachi brewery

4. Harushika Sake Brewery: Enjoy sake tasting at a Naramachi brewery

Take the road on the north side of Yoshida Kaya to the east, and you'll head to a sake brewery where you can enjoy sake tastings. Naramachi's Harushika Sake Brewery is one of Nara's premiere sake breweries.

Harushika brews and distributes many different kinds of sake, including the famous Junmai Cho Karakuchi (Extra Dry) beloved in ten countries worldwide.

Nara, Japan's first international city, is said to be the place Japanese refined sake originated. Harushika began brewing sake in 1884. The brand's name comes from the fact that the sacred animal of Kasuga Grand Shrine is the deer, or "shika" in Japanese.

It was originally called Kasuga Shinroku, later changed to Harushika, both names incorporating the Japanese characters for deer and Kasuga Shrine's name.

Harushika's top product is the Junmai Cho-Karakuchi, enjoyed in ten countries around the world. It's an extremely dry sake made with traditional techniques. The strong-bodied flavor and crispness form a beautiful combination, and it also goes amazingly well paired with food.

The bubbly and sweet Happo Junmaishu Tokimeki is called the sake of champagne. Its sweetness and the refreshing bubbles from the yeast perform an exquisite harmony, and it is a top-selling product even in New York. Finally, Junmai Nara no Yaezakura is also a popular brand with foreigners.

At the Sakagura ShOP, once you buy a 500 yen (tax included) original glass featuring a deer on the bottom, you can try a sake tasting of five different sakes, including limited-edition seasonal flavors.

After the sake tasting, you can also try Harushika's original Nara-zuke pickles, an irresistible perk for sake lovers. The sake menu is written in both Japanese and English, and employees also provide descriptions of the sake, so you'll know exactly what type of sake you are drinking.

Even if you only buy the glass, you can have the glass plus a sake tasting for the same 500 yen, so there's practically no choice but to try it. The glass itself is a perfect souvenir, and you can choose your favorite color. The best time recommended for sake tasting is around February when plenty of new brews are in stock.

  • Sakagura ShOP
    酒蔵ShOP
    • Address 24-1 Fukuchiin-cho, Nara City, Nara
    • Nearest Station a 16-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Line "Kintetsu Nara" Station, or a 21-minute walk from JR Yamatoji Line "Nara" Station
    • Phone Number 0742-23-2255
    • Business Hours: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (last order 4:30 PM)
      Scheduled Closings: O-bon holiday, New Year's holiday, and special events

5. Satoden Masuo Shoten: Nab some Naramachi souvenirs at a historic sugar shop

5. Satoden Masuo Shoten: Nab some Naramachi souvenirs at a historic sugar shop

Return from Harushika back to Yoshida Kaya, then turn the corner and head south to find Satoden Masuo Shoten. This old shop has over 160 years of history specializing in sugar. The shop's flagship product, which can be found here and nowhere else, is the mikado kome-ame, or "emperor's rice candy".

Rice candy is an old, traditional candy made by converting rice into sugar with malt, and is made without any artificial sweeteners, preservatives, or whitening agents whatsoever. Valuing the natural sweetness of rice, the candy has a very lightly sweet and smooth taste, and it is made specifically to further bring out rice candy's characteristic simple taste, flavor, and scent.

The sweets can, of course, also be used when cooking. It works great when added to Japanese dishes for a glaze, as well as a hidden accent to Japanese-style omelets and miso soup.

Nara Confeito (box 540 yen, bag 432 yen, both tax included)

One newer standard souvenir from Naramachi is the Nara Confeito. Confeito is a Portuguese word for sugar candy, known as "kompeito" in Japanese. In total, 16 different flavors are available for sale, such as Yamato roasted green tea, green tea, and brown rice tea. They are made with Yamato tea, brown sugar, and mikado rice candy. Popular sets are one with a mix of cinnamon, ginger, ume, and matcha mint in it, and the fruit mix with flavors like strawberry and peach. The boxes, with Japanese paper-cutting (kiri-e) style art depicting the Great Buddha statue, the Kofuku-ji Temple five-storied pagoda, and deer, also make for beautiful souvenirs from Nara.

Over 15 types of commercial-use sugar, including "kibiaji", "wasanbon", and granulated sugars are sold in smaller, individually-packaged quantities.

Each variety of sugar has a description and sample dish, so you can get a good grasp of the color and qualities of each. The smaller packs also feature reasonable prices and are light in weight. In addition to sugar, Nara honey and other products are also for sale.

  • Satoden Masuo Shoten
    砂糖傳 増尾商店
    • Address 10 Gangoji-cho, Nara City, Nara
    • Nearest Station a 15-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Line "Kintetsu Nara" Station, or a 20-minute walk from JR Yamatoji Line "Nara" Station
    • Phone Number 0742-26-2307
    • Business Hours: 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
      Scheduled Closings: none

Text by:WESTPLAN

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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