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Kyoto’s Nishiki Market – Vegetables

Rice husks being prepared for vegetables, photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

When you are focused on producing exceptional food using the magnificent natural resources at your disposal (also known as farming) the possibilities are endless. When my grandparents farmed in Iowa and when my husband's grandparents farmed in France, people ate seasonally and they used every last part of every food item.

What I loved about the food scene in Kyoto is that despite having more modern methods of food preparation, traditional methods are still used because you cannot replace the essential flavors that come from producing it the “hard” way.

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During our tour of the Nishiki Market with Context Travel, Daniel showed us a lot of the artisanal styles of preparation. One such method is nukazuke, using rice husks or rice bran to ferment vegetables. (Here is a fantastic blog post from the Kyoto Foodie that details the process.)  You can find many merchants selling a variety of vegetables using this method throughout Nishiki market.


I love the fact that every part of the rice is used. From the husks to the stalk. And in so many ways. One of our favorite teas is the genmai cha sometimes called Kyoto (roasted) rice tea which is delicious! And several afternoons we snacked on a variety of roasted rice cakes from the rice shop.

Another method for preparing vegetables (and fish too) is miso. They might not be the most appealing items in the market, but I find it fascinating! These are uncooked eggplants in a miso mixture with mirin sake, ginger and sugar – they are marinating in the mixture so that when you cook them it is absorbed into the vegetable.

Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

Vegetables in Kyoto are revered and have special labels or names. A lot of them are named after temples or shrines. One example of this is the Shogoin which is a daikon (turnip).

Shogoin Daikon

The temple Shogoin is considered to be the birthplace of this daikon. As you can see, it has a round shape, is fleshy and sweet, and is used for cooking furofuki and other boiled dishes. Only vegetables from Kyoto can be labeled this way. It reminds me a lot of the French AOC classifications.

Here is a photo of kuwai bulbs which are a local specialty similar to a potato in taste. Doesn't it look like garlic?

Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

I was so happy to be in Kyoto during chestnut season and to see what they look like in their natural state. I had a variety of treats with chestnut as the star – from ice cream to dumplings. Of course one of my favorite ways to eat them is roasted. Who could resist?

Photo credit: Mr. Misadventures

So many fun things to explore! Kyoto is definitely a town for vegetarians which I'm not, but appreciate it nonetheless. One day while we were about an hour outside of Kyoto visiting a temple we had an entire meal consisting of vegetables including purple yam ice cream for dessert.

You can't really say that vegetables are the star of the market at Nishiki, it is more like part of an ensemble cast with the fish and mochi and many, many other culinary delights, but vegetables are definitely an important part of every citizen of Kyoto's life.

How about you? Do you have an “old-school” cooking method that you use? Does the thought of an all-vegetable meal inspire you or make you want to run in the other direction?

Author Bio: Andi Fisher

Yes, I am a francophile, but after that, I love Japan, especially the food! I have been to Tokyo many times, and spent 2 weeks in Kyoto and a week in Osaka exploring and eating!

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  1. Oh I would love to go there. I am a vegetarian and what lovely vegetables.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Shannon, you would definitely love it there!

  2. Judy Thomas says:

    I have always wanted to go there! My sister is there at the moment on holiday (my sister lives in the Cook Islands and I live in New Zealand) and my daughter went 3 times when she was at school on student trips and attended school. But, I have never been.Maybe it’s my turn soon 🙂

  3. I love the Japanese approach to cooking – it’s all about balance! That market looks amazing! I hope I can visit there one day. I rarely eat meat an all veggie meal is definitely no problem for me!

  4. I love the old school food preparation used in Kyoto! After I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I wanted to know where all my food came from and how it was prepared.

  5. Debra Givens-Wagner says:

    That is amazing…what a place to visit! I love me some veggies. 🙂

  6. Nena Sinclair says:

    This is a very interesting post, I love to learn about different foods from various cultures!

  7. I would definitely love an all vegetable meal. My kids on the other hand would run the other way. I would love to travel and check other culture foods. The Miso does sound good. I bet very flavorful!