In eastern Kyoto, when you visit the Kiyomizu Temple (a World Heritage site not to be missed !), you will definitely pass these 2 shopping streets. These are the 2 stone paved streets that lead up to the temple compound and has been the only way for worshipers and tourists alike for past 400 years.
These streets have been around since the temple was founded and have houses lining both sides that are still typically japanese shophouses. Most are wooden and in keeping with the traditional outlook of the whole area. Thank God for that.
And this is what makes the place unique. You seemed to have been transported back in time and actually expect or hope to see samurais round the corner! Japanese residents in yukatas and Maikos in kominos still occasionally trod through cobblestone pavements. You know you are in Japan and you imagine "This is what Japan should be like!"
Although catering mainly to the tourists, these streets provide a unique glimpse into the Japanese way of life. Souvenirs are not the usual tacky shopping mall stuff (though it's also there) but you get offerings of many traditional Japanese goods like handmade parasols, fans, pottery & kyoto dolls. And this makes the world of difference to other shopping streets, even of those in japan.
One thing you must sample are the various types of Japanese cookies, yatsuhashi. These are all prepared in the traditional manner and are the usual omiyagi (gifts) which the Japanese themselves give to their friends and colleagues to mark their visit to that place.
Searching through the narrow alleyways and side streets along the steep incline will also reward you with unique japanese inns, cafes, and horrors, vending machines shops. Luckily, these ugly symbols of Japanese life are not so obvious here!