Nishiki food market (錦市場商店街) is an amazing place for everyone that likes traditional Japanese food. In a 400 meter long covered street in the city centre of Kyoto (京都) more than 100 specialty shops sell some of the best food in town as well as traditional kitchenware.
The food market exists already several hundreds of years and gives Western travellers an idea of the traditional Japanese cuisine.
Nishikikoji dori as the street is named is very easy to reach. The narrow street runs parallel with one of the main shopping streets, Shijo dori. If you ride the Hankyu Kyoto Railway Line then get off at Karusama station (5 minute walk). If you come by City bus then get off at the Shijo Kawaramachi bus stop (8 minute walk). More on the Kyoto transport in a future article.
The Market opens daily from around 9 am and has become a popular tourist attraction. The quality and great care by which the food is prepared not only attracts the foreign travellers but ensures that Nishiki market remains one of the most important places to buy food ingredients for the local residents.
Often Nishiki market is referred to as the kitchen of Kyoto.
The market is famous for tsukemono (Japanese pickles), wagashi (Japanese sweets), tea and if you are lucky to visit Kyoto in the fall you will enjoy the smell of roasted chestnuts.
If you are in for a tasty snack try some of the grilled squid, sugared fruit, rice balls, grilled tofu and many other products made on the spot.
In addition to the fresh and dried vegetables and fruits you can see the sashimi being cut with great care and skill right in front of your eyes.
For most tourists it is not possible to bring food as souvenir back home on the airplane. Instead make a stop at one of the kitchenware shops where you can buy very nice and yet affordable cups, dishes, tea pots, and alike.
If you fly back with checked luggage then my tip for a durable and great souvenir is a Japanese authentic hand made kitchen knife. One of the famous shops for that is Aritsugu (see below). The staff speaks English and they will help you choose from the more than hundred specialty knives on display. If you have a bit time left they will engrave the owner’s name in the blade.
For those of you that can read Japanese or have a translation widget installed in your browser here is the official street map of Nishiki market with links to all the shops at both sides of the street. Even if you can’t read Japanese it’s worth taking a look. Click on one of the shops and you will see a picture of what’s being sold. Unfortunately I could not find the English version and would be grateful if someone can provide me the link, if it exists.
If you visit Kyoto and like Japanese food don’t miss Nishiki market.