Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shōtengai (納屋町商店街), alternatively known as Passage Nayamachi 5-bangai (パッサージュなやまち5番街), is a 170 meter covered pedestrian shopping street in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto. Together with Fushimi Ōtesuji Shōtengai, it forms an ‘L’ shaped continuous covered pedestrian route from Fushimi-Momoyama Station into the surrounding districts to the west. Like Ōtesuji, the street traces its roots as a commercial area back to the completion of nearby Fushimi Castle at the end of the 16th century. The Nayamachi Susumu-shōkai (納屋町進商会), the earliest promotion association, was established in 1909. The following year, an iron structure with an arched sun shade cover was erected, the first version of the modern arcade. I couldn’t find an incorporation date for the Nayamachi Shōtengai Shinkō-kumiai (納屋町商店街振興組合), the current promotion association, but by 1996 the arcade had underwent a complete overhaul that included installation of granite pavement and the orange tinted, lancet arch cover over the shōtengai today.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

A large overhang connects the west end of Ōtesuji and north end of Nayamachi. The two arcades are quite different in design. Where Ōtesuji is relatively wide and has a simple shallow arch cover, Nayamachi is much narrower and features this very distinctive lancet arch translucent roof. Both arcades are two stories, but the narrow width of Nayamachi makes the proportion unusual. It feels a little like the aisle spaces of cathedrals.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

I continue straight into Nayamachi from Ōtesuji, and am surprised by the dramatic drop in footfall and activity. Nayamachi is subdued.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

In my research after the visit I discover that, while in the arcade, I had completely missed its most unique design feature. The arches that support the roof on either side of the arcade are filled with scenes of notable sites from around Fushimi, an Art Deco inspired touch that is unfortunately easy to miss due to its location. As a blogger noted, the height of the arches and narrow lane require one to tilt the neck up at an uncomfortable 75 degrees above horizon to see them.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Small groups pass through Nayamachi periodically, but it’s missing the steady hum of its bigger brother around the corner.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

While a majority of the shopfronts are older, open shutter styles, a few of the recently renovated spaces have these barren, setback and not entirely welcoming entrances that lead to larger properties in the middle of the block. There may be great shops and services inside, but this kind of design doesn’t help the street character.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Much better

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Something in the middle. It’s an open shopfront, but it leads to the real activity space at the back.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Utility

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Art

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Les Muses is a busy cafe with dedicated space for live music performances. As I work my way down Nayamachi, I notice a trend toward these kinds of establishments. There are cozy spaces for gathering, but few share their energy with the street. It’s a bit like Kyoto’s hanamachi (entertainment districts), such as Pontochō. A lot is happening behind closed doors and window shades, but the lanes are quiet.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Bakery

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

There are quite a few closed shutters, though they don’t seem like permanent shop closures.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

Most of the open businesses are restaurants or basic goods and services. This souvenir shop at the southern end is an odd one out, but it would turn out to be a clue as to the nature for the extra stop I would make after exiting.

Nayamachi Shotengai 納屋町商店街

I didn’t come away with much sense of excitement or character from Nayamachi, though one visit on one day is by no means complete picture. The space is elegant and well-maintained, and its location in the middle of a popular neighborhood would make it seem unusual for it to be fading away. Nayamachi may have a different time in which it shines best, and I’m always happy to find my initial impression changed by subsequent visits.

Official website: http://nayamachi.or.jp/