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Kyoto’s Nishiki Market

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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.

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). Not only is Kyoto a place to have epic culinary adventures, but Japan as a whole! Here is a really great list of delicious Japanese food to try at least once in your life, although in my book you should eat them over and over again!

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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ania

Tuesday 12th of March 2019

Food looks totally delicious, you almost made me hungry ;)

Damian

Wednesday 13th of May 2015

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

Andi Fisher

Wednesday 13th of May 2015

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

Mary Ann

Monday 13th of October 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!

Andi Fisher

Monday 13th of October 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!

Rosey

Sunday 12th of October 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!

FamiGami

Sunday 12th of October 2014

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

Andi Fisher

Sunday 12th of October 2014

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