The Cube is a shopping mall occupying three floors on the north west side of the station building. On the first floor and first basement floor (B1) you will find Kyoto confectionery and souvenir shops. This is a very handy area for picking up souvenirs unique to Kyoto before you depart for your next destination. On the second basement floor (B2) are ladies’ fashion boutiques and cosmetics stores. Though opening times vary according to the individual store, the souvenir shops are generally open from 8:30 – 20:00. Most of the clothing stores are open from 10:00 – 20:00 on weekdays and until 21:00 on Friday and Saturday.
The Cube is easily located to the immediate west of the central exit on the north side of the station building. This first floor section of the Cube is dominated by confectionery shops. Here you can buy all kinds of sweet souvenirs that are unique to Kyoto. Amongst the many goodies on offer are a variety of sweet and savory sembei rice crackers.
Dango are sweet rice flour dumplings usually served on a skewer and served with green tea. Various flavors of dango are on offer. Cha-dango are flavored with green tea.
Mitarashi dango are covered in a syrup made from soy sauce, sugar and starch, and sanshoku dango come in three colors: peach, white and green. The green ones are flavored with mugwort.
Warabimochi are jellies made from bracken starch and dipped in kinako (soybean flour) and sugar.
Kyoto’s best known confectionery is yatsuhashi. These are baked strips of rice flour and cinnamon wrapped around sweet bean paste. You can find a variety of flavors and colors on sale both here and on the B1 floor.
To reach the first basement floor of the Cube simply descend via the escalators in front of the central ticket gates. This floor is essentially a small market devoted to selling Kyoto souvenirs. You can buy confectionery here too, but there are a lot of other items on offer including ceramics, Buddhist prayer beads, sake, pickles and as well as an assortment of cheap curios and knick-knacks. Here are some highlights.
Kyoto is famous for its green tea, which is grown in nearby Uji and renowned for its refreshing taste and revitalizing health properties. This is an easy souvenir to pack and unlike some of the confectionery items will stay fresh for a long time and so makes a great souvenir for those traveling long distances.
Kyoto is also well known for its nihonshu or sake brewed from rice and fresh spring water in the city’s Fushimi district.
Kyoto’s traditional pottery is called Kyo-yaki or Kiyomizu-yaki and is famous for its simple elegance and beautiful coloring. A selection is on offer in the Cube B1.
This souvenir market is dominated by a large section devoted to traditional Kyoto pickles. Called tsukemono, these pickles can be served as a relish with rice. All kinds of colorful pickled vegetables are on sale here. To help you choose there are little bowls set out before each variety with samples that you can try before buying.
Another set of escalators will take you down to the second basement floor. This section of the Cube is largely devoted to ladies’ fashions. Most of the stores are clothing boutiques, with some stores also devoted to shoes or bags. However, you can also find a pharmacy and stores selling cosmetics, jewelry, watches, a flower shop and a gift shop too. Here are some highlights.
Cactus.. Cepo is one of the many fashion boutiques on B2 of the Cube. This one is devoted to slightly tom-boyish, cute but casual clothing.
Lush sells a range of cosmetic and skincare products that are made from fresh and natural ingredients.
Oriental Traffic is a ladies’ shoe shop which sells an ever-changing range of unique and playful designs.
Samantha Vega is a brand of ladies bags designed to be both fashionable and of practical use.
Tic Tac is an elegant brand of ladies watches.
Birthday Bar is a gift shop “both unisex and urbane” which aims to inspire you when you simply don’t know what to buy for that special someone.
The Aoyama Flower Market despite the name, is a simple flower shop and not a market. However if you wish to greet someone at the Kyoto Station with a big bouquet of freshly cut flowers, this would be the place to get it.
Dining Options in the Cube
The main gourmet section of the Cube is in a completely separate location on the 11th floor of the station building. However, while shopping within the Cube proper, you can find a small number of places to grab a bite to eat. On the first basement floor you can find Estacion Café, Pronto Café & Dining Bar, and a Kyoto pickles specialty restaurant.
Estacion Cafe is a small café tucked behind the escalators on the first basement floor. Here you can get a simple meal of ham, eggs and toast, or a healthy fruit salad. This is a non-smoking café open 7:00-22:00.
Pronto Café & Dining Bar serves pasta dishes and is open from 7:00-23:00.
Kyo Tsukemono Ajiwai Tokoro Nishiri (京漬物 味わい処 西利) is a restaurant serving traditional Japanese meals with various seasonal pickles unique to Kyoto. It is generally open from 8:30-20:00 but opening hours are subject to seasonal changes.
On the second basement floor you can find Vie de France Café & Bakery, and the Cosme Kitchen Café.
Vie de France serves fresh baked bread and sandwiches and is open from 7:30-21:00.
Cosme Kitchen is a macrobiotic café and delicatessen serving organic vegetables and natural foods. Monday to Thursday it is open from 10:00-20:00. Friday and Saturday it is open from 10:00-21:00.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.