The shopping arcade at Kamitori is the northern segment of Kumamoto’s sister arcades, complementing the southern Shimotori. Although it may be less expansive than its counterpart, it boasts several gems in shopping and dining, and serves as an artery to several trendy neighborhoods that surround the arcade.Like travel in most instances, some of the best things in Kamitori and Shimotori require you to look twice. Both shopping malls are filled with interesting nooks and passages, although this is especially the case of Kamitori’s Avant Garden, as well as Café Switch. Located within the west side of the lower segment of Kamitori, Avant Garden is a small oasis shrouded among the tall buildings that Kamitori is otherwise comprised of. Complete with trees and a small waterfall, this area is sometimes used to host markets and live music. When that is not the case, it provides seating in a serene environment for customers of the nearby cafes and restaurants.
Cafe Switch is in an alleyway a few short feet ahead along the central arcade. Switch is renowned by Kumamotonians to have some of the best beans in the city, offering a variety of cakes and speciality coffees that are well-crafted and available in unique and creative flavors. They also offer their own latte art courses to the general public, for any baristas-in-training who may be interested.
Returning to the central arcade, you’ll see more of your standard Japanese shopping arcade fare, including popular franchises such as Lotteria and Doutour. Similar to Shimotori and though not a distinctly “Kumamotonian” feeling, Kamitori offers a slice of urban Japan in a city that is otherwise relatively small.
At the central entrance to Kamitori and diagonal to the Torichosuji tram stop is a small plaza that features bustling markets. These vary from day to day, but in an average week you can expect to see local farmers and craftsmen selling fresh produce. Directly above, there is an escalator and staircase leading to the Contemporary Art Gallery of Kumamoto, as well as a number of cafes and restaurants.
Although Kamitori is definitely the less rowdy of the two, that’s not to say that Kamitori is “uncool” by any means. It’s quite the contrary, in fact. Out of the two, Kamitori has more of the “artistic” feeling- hosting the Contemporary Art Gallery, a sizeable instrument store, a whimsical vintage clothing boutique, the Doc Marten’s shop, and several other unique shoe and clothing stores. Kamitori is also home to Nagasaki Book store, a shop that is talked up among locals for its refined selection. Though their english section is limited, they feature some of the finest stationary and calendars in the city.
Whether its clothing, food, or entertainment, Kamitori is every bit about substance as it is about style. Although they feature many similar restaurants and boutiques, Kamitori offers a shopping environment with a more relaxed pace, whereas Shimotori offers an unapologetically rambunctious sample of Japanese nightlife. Furthermore, the adjacent neighborhoods to Kamitori tend to feature Izakaya and Cafes, more so than clubs and karaoke parlours which Shimotori specializes in.
Although at first glance they may appear similar, Kamitori and Shimotori feature entertainment of differing, yet complimentary attitudes and paces. While your preference may vary by mood, the two arcades go together to make two parts of a whole. Operating hours vary from store to store, but for retail purposes, both Kamitori and Shimotori operate from about 9:00AM-9:00PM, with the exception of bars and restaurants. As with Shimotori, bicycle use is prohibited within the arcade, so be mindful that you will have to find a spot before you go on your shopping spree.
Kamitori Shopping Arcade
Access: Take the A-line to Kengunmachi from JR Kumamoto station, and get off at Torichosuji stop. Walk 100 meters.
Hours: Many shops are open from 9:00-21:00.