Kumamoto’s Commercial Hub, Shimotori Shopping Arcade
Japan’s shopping arcades, for those who have not experienced them, are something truly incredible from the perspective of the average Westerner. Functioning as something of an outdoor mall, these sprawling city blocks are reserved for pedestrian use and sheltered by roofs above the streets to protect from the elements. This is even more so the case in Shimotori, which as a relatively recent shopping arcade, features several modern perks.
The walk along the shopping district is complete with hardwood paths, an arched glass sunroof which allows natural light to filter in, heating and humidifiers built into the central arcade. There are even benches and trees, all located within the central road, for guests to enjoy as they browse and shop. Shimotori runs a combined length of 511 meters, with a width of 15 meters.
What We Can Get at Shimotori Shopping Arcade
As far as the selection of shops within Shimotori goes, the list is quite expansive. By day, Shimotori serves as the main hub for shopping in downtown Kumamoto. Located either in or near Shimotori are all the amenities of Japanese shopping. From discount stores such as Daiso and Seria, to grocery stores, to fashion and food of almost any variety; Shimotori is Kumamoto’s commercial hub.
Self-professed otaku will find glee in upper Shimotori. This stretch features several nationally renowned purveyors of anime and manga, such as Melonbooks and Animate, as well as a number of video game arcades. Here, the arcade games are blaring and the gashapon roll freely.
Along with Tsuruya Department Building, Shimotori is also one of the best places to find familiar western clothing labels. The arcade features a handful or vintage and western-inspired boutiques, as well as Zara’s Kumamoto branch. Whether it’s clothing or food, Shimotori is a great hub for Westerners nostalgic for a taste of home. This is all the more evidenced by Tsuruya Land Marché – a gourmet grocer specializing in foreign products. Although you will be paying a premium for some of these products, Lande Marché is, without a doubt, the most convenient way of getting your hands on international staples in Kumamoto. The emporium of edibles is perfect for a Canadian missing their maple syrup, or an Australian missing their Vegemite.
Any Cafes, Restaurants, Sushi Bars in Shimotori Shopping Arcade?
Shimotori is also host to several familiar comfort foods such as McDonalds, Starbucks, and Baskin & Robbins; offering a reprise for those who are hit with homesick hunger pangs. Although it seems a sin to visit such international franchises such as these while in Japan, it also satisfies those simply curious to see the subtle variations from country-to-country.
In spite of the abundance of familiar brand names, Shimotori is anything but westernized. It is not uncommon to see calligraphers, buskers, and even monks making their way through Shimotori. It all makes an eclectic shopping experience, to say the least.
Within the shopping arcade, you will find countless sushi bars, ramen shops, izakaya, and other Japanese-style restaurants and entertainment centers. You’ll also find several uniquely Japanese retail environments, such as discount pharmacies and electronics shops that are overflowing with products. Various souvenir shops and Japanese craft stores can be found throughout the length of Shimotori, selling Japanese fabrics and traditional ceramics that work just as well as tasteful household staples as they do souvenirs.
Also residing off of Shimotori, is Kagonyan Cat Café & shelter. Once a month, English yoga lessons are held in the café by Heart and Sol Yoga – a perfect opportunity for those looking to get some meditative exercise while supporting a local charity.
Although by day Shimotori is a bustling shopping neighborhood, 21:00 marks its transition into the central hub of Kumamoto’s nightlife. The adjacent streets feature countless bars, izakaya, and nightclubs, while the arcade itself hosts a seemingly infinite number of things such as Karaoke bars, pachinko parlors, bowling alleys, and other entertainment. Those venturing through Shimotori in the early morning on either Saturday or Sunday may wish to exercise caution, as there is still a bit of spillover from the debauchery of the nights before. Whether at night time or during the day, Shimotori is evidence of one thing: for a city the size of Kumamoto, it’s quite metropolitan when it wants to be.
Shimotori and Kamitori also provide a major stretch of many of the annual festivals and parades that make their way through Kumamoto’s downtown, such as the Girls’ Day doll displays, along with the Saint Patrick’s Day, Hallowe’en, and Drunken Horse Festivals. Bicycle use is prohibited within both arcades, although there are several parking areas adjacent to Shimotori. Operating hours vary from store to store, but for retail businesses, both Shimotori and Kamitori operate from about 9:00AM-9:00PM.
Shimotori Shopping Arcade
Address: From Tetori Honcho to Shimotori 2-chome, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto-shi
Access: From JR Kumamoto station, take the A-Line tram towards Kengunmachi. Get off at Torichosuji stop.