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Wandering Kyoto’s kitchen district with VR

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nishiki Market is seen in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto.

KYOTO — E-commerce site kyotonishiki-ec.com has employed virtual reality technology and a wider selection of products to help people enjoy virtually shopping at the Nishiki Market in central Kyoto during the pandemic.

The site allows visitors to view the shopping district, also known as “the kitchen of Kyoto,” in all directions, as if they were on the street. When visitors select a store of interest and click on the URL displayed, they can proceed to a page where they can purchase about 180 items, including products and souvenirs from 43 restaurants and stores out of the about 130 shops that are members of the shopping street’s promotion association.

The site also has special pages featuring “foods in the traditional 24-seasonal divisions of a year,” which offers seasonal foods, and “the Nishiki special selection set,” which proposes an assortment of obanzai side-dish sets, sukiyaki and sweets.

Users can purchase products from multiple stores at once, and orders can be delivered nationwide, whether they are transported at room temperature, refrigerated or frozen.

The website was made by the Kyoto Nishiki-koji Machidukuri LLC and the Kyoto Nishiki Ichiba shopping street promotion association. It was created with the help of a subsidy from the prefectural government to support areas hit by the drastic decline of tourists.

“I hope people will learn about the joys of the shopping district even on the internet,” said Akira Shimizu, director of the Kyoto Nishiki-koji Machidukuri.

Before the pandemic, the Nishiki Market was often crowded with foreign tourists. However, there are fewer people on the streets, and some stores had their shutters down amid the pandemic.

Kai, a furikake (dried mixed seasoning) store whose sales were dominated by foreign visitors to Japan, joined the website.

“We want to raise the profile of Nishiki Market and have people visit us after the pandemic,” said the store manager, Hitoshi Mizushima.

There will be more participating stores and more products in the future.