For those with limited time in Kyoto, but who would still like to enjoy some 'hands-on' cultural experiences during their stay, Nishijin Tondaya Machiya is perfect. The history of this townhouse dates back to the Meiji Era of the mid-19th century, when it was founded by the Tanaka family of kimono wholesalers. It remains among the best, and most engaging, places in the city to shop for traditional Japanese attire, because of the unique way it caters to its foreign visitors. Not only are English-speaking staff always on hand to help customers try on the Tanakas’ beautiful creations, but the family also offer several other uniquely Japanese experiences in the same building.
On arrival, guests are greeted and introduced to the history of the house, before enjoying a tour that includes opportunities to try your hand at Japanese calligraphy, using specially designed brushes to create the elegant flourishes and swirls of kanji characters. A short tea ceremony is then hosted by your guide at a low table in a traditional, bamboo-matted room. You can also try 'ikebana', the ancient Japanese art of flower arrangement, before finishing in the main kimono store where it's time to decide whether you can afford to take an iconic piece of Kyoto home with you . . .