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For any visit to Kyoto, a stop at the Nishiki Market is a must.
Dating back to the 14th century, Kyoto’s Nishiki Market has been operating as a market for over 400 years. The market is five narrow blocks long and has 126 stalls. The market is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m. Those are the facts.
The reality is that the market lives up to its nickname of “the kitchen of Kyoto” with its stunning variety of fresh delicacies. Sophisticated yet accessible, the market is a necessary part of any Kyoto itinerary for food travelers such as ourselves as well as for average tourists.
Our Visit to the Nishiki Market in Kyoto
We arrived at the market at 5 p.m. to find it bustling with locals and tourists. We immediately realized that most vendors were offering samples. Each sample was better than the last sample, from fresh fish to pickles to walnuts to fried treats. The samples worked, as we couldn’t resist buying various items as we walked through the market.
We loved the marinated raw fish on sticks sold at Kimura, the oldest stall in the market. Part ceviche. Part sashimi. Totally delicious.
Food on sticks was one of the themes of the market. Another theme was fried food. One market treat combined these two themes. How can you not love a fried tiger prawn topped with a spicy sauce?!
We also tried a fish cake on a stick. Not surprisingly, it was tasty too.
Not all of the fish and seafood was fried and on sticks. We would have bought some for later if only we had a kitchen and more time.
Next time we’re in Kyoto, maybe we should get an Airbnb apartment so that we shop at the market and cook at home.
Thankfully, we didn’t need a kitchen to enjoy the takoyaki. All we needed to do was pay our 180 yen (less than $2 US) at the vending machine and dig in. We kept it simple with one jumbo takoyaki plate to share as opposed to topping our octopus balls with cheese or spring onions.
Although takoyaki is an Osaka food specialty, the Kyoto rendition did not disappoint. The only challenge was to keep the gooey filling from burning our mouths. We were up to the challenge.
We are very familiar with takoyaki, having first discovered them years ago in the basement of the Sogo department store in Hong Kong. It’s a good thing, since we may not have been enticed by the stall’s description of takoyaki as “the food in which the flour mixture water containing an octopus was toasted”.
Another theme of the market was pickling. All types of vegetables were pickled and available for sampling and buying.
Some other food items caught our eye during our culinary stroll. We were overwhelmed with choices, not that we’re complaining.
The market was more than just food. There were stalls that sold pottery, trinkets and other non-food items. We wandered around Aritsuga, a stall with all kinds of kitchenware. Being left-handed, Daryl was tempted by the selection of left-handed knives though he ultimately bought a Japanese knife on Kappabashi Street in Tokyo instead.
We ended our Nishiki market experience with a non-Japanese treat. We can’t resist a pastel de nata since our honeymoon in Portugal. Some have been good (i.e. Montreal) and some have been bad (i.e. Macau). Trust the Japanese to recreate the European pastry with perfect creamy, caramelized precision!
We enjoyed the market so much that we didn’t have room for dinner that night. Oh well, such are the sacrifices that we make in the quest for authentic food travel.
The Nishiki Market in Kyoto is located at Japon, 〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 富小路通四条上る西大文字町609.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.