Kyoto’s Nishiki Market

Fresh salad found in Kyoto's Nishiki Market
Fresh salad found in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market

Food moves me. It is a driving force in my life and an essential part of how I travel. I am not alone in this journey. My partner in life is my partner in crime and many travel-related decisions are made around food.

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As the world gets smaller and a large variety of food is available all year long, we lose our respect for the seasons and for the unique local characteristics of food that makes regional differences regional.

When the Misadventures family plans its trips, my husband focuses on the activities and sites (particularly from a photographic perspective) and I focus on the food (and all things related to food, although the Misters definitely contributes).

Squid pops in Kyoto Nishiki Market
Squid pops(!) in Kyoto Nishiki Market

As I was preparing for my trip to Kyoto I was doing my typical research, checking out what other bloggers have had to say about this area of Japan,  I came across a truly exceptional piece written by Matt Goulding of Roads & Kingdoms about Japanese cuisine and Kyoto in particular. If you have any interest in Japanese food at all, I implore you to read it.

Kyoto approaches food the way it should be. Seasonally. Locally.

Chestnuts in Kyoto Nishiki Market
Seasonal chestnuts found in the market.

But don’t get me wrong. There are more Starbucks in Kyoto than in my own town of Berkeley, they have made their presence known, but after spending a week eating in the city, I can tell you that Starbucks is not a driving force in the lives of the people in this town. However, there is a real danger that it could be. The youth, just like everywhere else in the world, may abandon their regional and cultural roots if Japanese cuisine is not protected.

I digress, this is not a post on food politics, it is a love letter to Kyoto and in particular to Nishiki Market, the city’s 400-year old food center. Before heading to Kyoto I reached out to my friends at Context Travel to organize a few tours. As it is a city of temples, I wasn’t surprised that there were plenty of tours associated with visiting temples, but I was disappointed there was nothing focused on cuisine. No problem. The wonderful, amazing, smart folks at Context Travel created a custom tour for us focused on Nishiki Market and its surrounding area.

Row of stall and vendors in the in Kyoto Nishiki Market
A row of stall and vendors.

We decided to do the tour the first thing in the morning on our first full day. It was my intent to get the lay of the food land at the beginning of our stay so that we could leverage the knowledge the remainder of our stay.

We met our guide Daniel at the Teramachi arcade on Shijo Dori, one of the main thorough-ways in town. As we entered the arcade we visited the Nishiki Tenmangu shrine which faces the Nishiki Market. Before refrigeration, the temple was the source of cold water for the shops and for drinking. And despite the fact that the market now has plumbing, many of the merchants still come for drinking water as it is a source of good luck. In fact, Kyoto’s water is famous (again, if you are interested, read the piece from Roads & Kingdoms) which is why they say the rice and vegetables, well heck everything is so tasty in Kyoto.

As we made our way into the Market, and throughout the morning, Daniel pointed out food history, local specialties and preparation techniques. As is usual with Context Travel, like all the other docents I have encountered on all my other Context travel tours, Daniel was quietly brilliant. Daniel has lived in Kyoto for 9 years and has a Ph.D. in tourism with a focus on sociology and anthropology. He shared a great deal of detail on the market and its foods that we utilized all week.

Daniel sharing his knowledge with me in Kyoto Nishiki Market
Daniel sharing his knowledge with me.

[In fact, we ate at the market and/or the food courts at the bottom of the Takashimaya department store nearly the entire week. (We also did this in Osaka.) The result? We brought back half of our vacation budget money!]

The market is a dream for foodies. A whirl of activity and very friendly merchants. There is no way to get lost, just follow the beautiful glass roof.

Beautiful colored glass ceiling in Kyoto Nishiki Market
The beautiful colored glass ceiling

We sampled and tasted so many new things as well as old favorites seen in a new light and with much more appreciation.

Tempura everything in Kyoto Nishiki Market
Tempura everything!

As I have a ton of photos, I am going to share some photo essays which will allow me to show more food stories from this special place (see photo grid below).

Practical information:

Location: one block north and parallel to Shijō Street and west of Teramachi Street

Hours: Open every day 9:30-6:00, there are a few national holidays that impact the schedule

Website (in Japanese): http://www.kyoto-nishiki.or.jp/

Context Tour: Savoring Nishiki Market

More Nishiki Market Resources

– Condé Nast’s A Guide to Kyoto’s Nishiki Market
– Chef Armoury’s Blog Insider’s Guide to Nishiki Markets, Kyoto
– Saveur’s Nishiki Market guide
– The Kitchn Nishiki Market
– White on Rice Couple’s Nishiki Market post

How about you? Do you like food markets? Where is your favorite one?

Other Kyoto Posts You May Like

Kyoto Food kyoto nishiki market fish kyoto nishiki market tamago kyoto nishiki market vegetables
kyoto gesiha kyoto kimono kyoto fushimi inari temple kyoto kiyomizu-dera temple

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62 Comments

  1. Stew Ross
    February 17, 2014

    One of our favorite markets is in the village of Versailles (France). Most people who visit the Versailles Palace have no idea that a village exists. It is quite historical and the food is great (we had the best frites ever in the village). There is a market no one should miss. It is located in the Place du Marche Notre-Dame (intersection of Rue du Marechal Foch and Rue de la Pourvoierie). There are four separate markets, each concentrating on a different food type. Located in the northwest corner is the entrance to the Hotel du Bailliage. Built in 1724, it served as the law court and prison (public executions were held in the Place du Marche Notre-Dame). You can enter here and go through the Passage de la Geole (Passage of the Jail). It was here during the French Revolution that prisoners were kept until their trial (and the usual death sentence). Madame du Barry was once imprisoned here. Enjoy the food and the history. The market is open on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday mornings. Don’t forget to wander around the village. It’s just as fascinating as the palace.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      February 17, 2014

      @Stew, thanks for sharing. I myself have enjoyed many hours exploring the other parts of Versailles and agree that there are plenty of hidden gems in this village most people miss. I had one of the best kebabs of my life here!

      Reply
  2. Naomi
    February 18, 2014

    This market looks incredible and if it’s the source of good quality, well priced food – even better! I loved La Boqueria in Barcelona, it’s quite a touristy market but the food on offer is incredible, there was a South American stall and I went to town with buying as many arepas and tamales as I could!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      February 18, 2014

      @Naomi, it is a foodie’s dream!

      Reply
  3. Katie @ Domestiphobia
    February 18, 2014

    Okay. When you and Mr. Misadventures team up for a post, it’s incredible! The visuals!! I want to be there… like now. Can Justin and I tag along on your next vacation??!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      February 20, 2014

      @Katie, absolutely! You and Justin look like you would be up to lots of foodie adventures!

      Reply
  4. Sophie Friedman
    February 21, 2014

    Andi, great to hear you so enjoyed yourself with Daniel! The photos are lovely, too – they being me right back to Kyoto (and are making me very, very hungry). What markets did you visit in Osaka? I’ll be there in April and plan to eat my way around.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      February 22, 2014

      @Sophie, Daniel was awesome, more posts about the market (where Daniel reappears) coming up. We ate many meals, including one entirely made up of several types of tuna for $20 (for 2!) at Kuromon Ichiba in Osaka.

      Reply
  5. precious mae
    February 22, 2014

    I’d probably love this place. I love my food most especially seafood! My mouth waters just by looking at the squid.

    Reply
  6. Gloria Walshver
    February 23, 2014

    When I traveled to israel a few years ago I had the opportunity to eat different kind of foods which i normally don’t in America.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      February 23, 2014

      @Gloria, I am sure they have amazing food markets in Israel!

      Reply
  7. Erin
    February 24, 2014

    Great photos. Did you guys enjoy the squid on a stick? Sometimes I like it and sometimes I find it very chewy.

    Reply
  8. What an amazing place! Food always plays a central role in my travels as well. Visiting the markets, grocery stores, and restaurants are often among the top highlights of my trips. Beautiful photos – love the one of the chestnuts, just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 2, 2014

      @Kimberly, my pleasure, thanks for visiting! I just naturally gravitate to food and the stories it tells.

      Reply
  9. @Travelpanties
    October 3, 2014

    I’ve always wanted to go to Japan and now I have one more reason! I love exploring the food of different cities. This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 3, 2014

      @TravelPanties, it is awesome, definitely worth a visit!

      Reply
  10. Carrie @Frugal Foodie Mama
    October 3, 2014

    Markets really are the way to go whether you travel in the U.S. or abroad. There really is no better way to get a feel for the local food scene better. This Japanese market looks amazing! I am completely by fascinated by how the temple is a source of cool drinking water- such a cool piece of history! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 3, 2014

      @Carrie, it is an awesome way to see how the locals eat! It also tends to save a lot of money.

      Reply
  11. Rachelle
    October 3, 2014

    I love exploring markets! My husband and I are the same … he picks the activities and I make sure we’re well fed. I’ve favorited this for when we visit Japan!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 3, 2014

      @Rachelle, there is a great market in Osaka and Tokyo too!

      Reply
  12. Masshole Mommy
    October 10, 2014

    The food there looks amazing. Now I’m hungry!

    Reply
  13. Amanda Young
    October 10, 2014

    Wow what great Pictures. Food soothes my soul as well, i imagine my soul is overweight ;P

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Amanda, oh love that saying, and I know mine is too!

      Reply
  14. Franc Ramon
    October 10, 2014

    The grilled squid looks really tasty. The other fried foods looks good too. It would be fun eating here.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Franc, it definitely was, and after a week, there were still things we didn’t get a change to try!

      Reply
  15. Nina Say
    October 10, 2014

    Beautiful photos! I hope everything tasted as good as it looks.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Nina, it did, trust me I tried a lot!

      Reply
  16. michele d
    October 10, 2014

    Great pictures of the different kinds of foods. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  17. JoAnna
    October 10, 2014

    Oh wow, that food looks absolutely wonderful. I would love to visit Kyoto someday.

    Cheers!
    JoAnna
    foreverinparadise.net

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @JoAnna, I hope you get there someday!

      Reply
  18. Tamika
    October 10, 2014

    I’m going to have to check this market out if I come back to Japan. I miss the culture and food there as well. Sometime’s food drives me on my destination as well.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Tamika, what parts of Japan have you visited?

      Reply
  19. Terri Ingraham | Sugar Free Glow
    October 10, 2014

    LOVE visiting markets while vacationing. The food looks amazing. My husband has been there but I wasn’t able to go–next time for sure!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Terri, definitely a must do! Did your hubby enjoy it when he visited?

      Reply
  20. Bonnie @ wemake7
    October 10, 2014

    I love seeing pictures of different foods and places I have never been. It makes me feel like I am there too.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Bonnie, thanks I am glad my post was able to transport you!

      Reply
  21. Danielle Stewart
    October 10, 2014

    Love, love, love. Food…pictures…adventures….my favorite things (oh and eating!) What a fantastic job! I would love to follow you around and check out where you eat!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Danielle, thanks! I definitely travel via my stomach!

      Reply
  22. XmasDolly
    October 10, 2014

    Well, I must say those are some great photos. I always thought it was interesting the way other people live and do things. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @XmasDolly, thanks, I am fascinated by that too which is why I love to travel!

      Reply
  23. Letty C.
    October 11, 2014

    The moment I saw the first photo, I knew your were at some asian market. I visited Taipei this past summer and night markets was one of the places we frequent the most. There is actually one just for foodies lovers, every stall has just food. It was a wonderful experience.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Letty, I haven’t been to a food market in Taipei yet, that last time I was there was a business trip 15 years ago, if I ever go back it is good to know that they have such a great one!

      Reply
  24. Taylor
    October 11, 2014

    Looks like a fun market! You take really wonderful pictures!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Taylor, thanks! They are mainly my hubby, he has the camera skills!

      Reply
  25. Risa
    October 11, 2014

    I love your photos! They capture the food perfectly! I’m sure it is fun to experience all these new things.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Risa, thanks, most of the pictures my hubby took, I was too busy actually trying the food!

      Reply
  26. Joanna Sormunen
    October 11, 2014

    What a wonderful post! I can see the same thing happening in Ecuador. There is this amazing tradition in local and seasonal foods, that young people are leaving aside, so they can eat at McDonalds.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Joanna, well that is too bad, but there is McDonald’s and Coke all over the world, often cheaper for people to eat than going to the grocery store, although I still think markets have to be cheaper. I hope that traditional local foods will still have a place in the world, hate to see them go extinct!

      Reply
  27. Ann Bacciaglia
    October 11, 2014

    I have never been to Kyoto. The food looks amazing. Your photos are stunning. So full of color.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 11, 2014

      @Ann, thanks Ann, the food was as delicious as the photos depict!

      Reply
  28. Melissa Smith
    October 11, 2014

    That market looks just like I envision an outdoor market should be. Fresh, local & in season food should be everywhere!

    Reply
  29. Chrissy
    October 11, 2014

    Wow everything looks so amazing! Now I’m very hungry 🙂

    Reply
  30. FamiGami
    October 12, 2014

    Wow, I’ve never seen any of that food in my life! It must be a huge culture shock on the food alone!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 12, 2014

      @FamiGami, you just have to take a leap of faith and try, to me it was all so delicious!

      Reply
  31. Rosey
    October 12, 2014

    That’s a cool tidbit that people still come for water as a sign of good luck (even w/the plumbing now in place). Fascinating read, excellent pictures!

    Reply
  32. Mary Ann
    October 13, 2014

    I am not that brave when it comes to food. But the pictures of your experience there are incredible and I feel like I was there with you. What a cool experience!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      October 13, 2014

      @MaryAnn, glad I could transport you, you just have to dive in and try. If you don’t like something then you know not to get it again!

      Reply
  33. Damian
    May 13, 2015

    Hi Andi,may I know what camera you used to take those lovely photos?

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      May 13, 2015

      @Damian, it was a combo of iPhone, Fuji EX-1 and a Canon 5D.

      Reply
  34. Florence for Foodies
    October 5, 2018

    […] Like we did in Kyoto, Mr. Misadventures and I requested a custom Context Travel tour, Florence for Foodies. And as usual, the Context Travel team and Adrienne, our guide, delivered an exceptional, food-focused experience. […]

    Reply
  35. […] spots to wear your kimono in Kyoto? How about Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, or the Nishiki Market? You’d fit right […]

    Reply
  36. Kuromon-Ichiba Market
    October 8, 2018

    […] the end, the one thing I did love about Osaka was Kuromon-Ichiba Market. Like Nishiki, it was just what a foodie needs. Food experiences for miles. New things to try, look at, touch, […]

    Reply

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