Fish markets are not new to Japan. In fact, nearly every major city in the country has at least one of its own, if not more. For Central Kyoto, a narrow, long street referred to as the Nishiki Ichiba serves as its most popular marketplace.
Overview of Kyoto’s Nishiki Market
Nishiki Ichiba, or better known as Nishiki Market, originally started out as a wholesale fish market during the 1300s. Over the years, a wide array of shops started moving into the area, transforming it into a retail market.
It now stretches about five blocks long and is lined on either side by more than a hundred different restaurants and shops. The market has also been dubbed to be Kyoto’s Kitchen, given its abundance in food-related goods such as cookware, knives, fresh seafood, and other produce.
The Nishiki Market also serves as the best place for locals and tourists to purchase seasonal and specialty foods unique to Kyoto including sushi, dried seafood, pickles, and Japanese sweets.
Although the atmosphere of the Nishiki Market can get quite busy, the place offers visitors with an overall pleasant experience by introducing them to the various culinary delights that have put Kyoto on the block.
The stores that line up the marketplace range from small stalls to multi-level shops, most of which specialize in a certain food type and feature locally produced goods. Some of these shops give out free samples to wandering visitors, while others sell specialty dishes or street food.
What to Eat at Kyoto’s Nishiki Market
Although Kyoto does not carry the same level of culinary expertise that other major cities such as Osaka is known to have, it is still among Japan’s most popular tourist destinations that house a wide array of mouthwatering dishes unlike any other.
The Nishiki Market serves as the best place for tourists to go on a gastronomical journey through Kyoto’s iconic food items, courtesy of Kyoto’s own residents. Some of the must-try foods that can be found at Nishiki Market include:
Although countless shops at Nishiki Market sell a wide array of vegetables, a store known as Kanematsu stands at a whole other level with its luxurious appeal. All of its vegetables exude so much freshness that they look as though they have been waxed and shined. The store’s fruits are no exception and are handled with the same amount of care as one would observe with prized jewelry.
Of course, all of these items come with equally luxurious price tags that normally would be considered expensive for vegetable or fruit but are actually quite reasonable given the high quality of the products.
There is practically no Japanese person that does not love pickles. The tangy treat is available almost anywhere in the country, be it at fine dining restaurants or izakayas (Japanese gastropubs).
Those that are sold in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market make use of only the finest vegetables available and are created using unique methods and recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Some of the most popular pickled vegetables that can be found in Nishiki Market include plums, cucumbers, and eggplants.
Of course, sushi is a must in nearly every city of Japan, not just Kyoto. Among the many stores that sell various kinds of sushi and sashimi at the Nishiki Market, those of Iyomata are known to be among the best.
The store’s philosophy is to only use the freshest ingredients to create delicious dishes. As such, the options available at Iyomata are quite limited.
Nonetheless, any item they have on the menu for the day is guaranteed to wow one’s socks off, as the shop has been in the business for nearly four hundred years.
Japanese cuisine is not known to feature incredibly strong flavors and, instead, offers a variety of subtle tones that are not offensive to the palate. However, that does not mean that Japan does not have its fair share of spices.
At the Nishiki Market, visitors can find a wide array of mixes that range from delicate additives to bold and impactful powders. Among the best stores to check out for Japanese spices is a shop called Ochanoko-Sai Sai.
This shop specializes in a seasoning known as the traditional seven-spice mix, which goes great with just about any dish, giving it the right amount of kick that sends its basic flavors up a notch. Ochanoko-Sai Sai offers this mix at different levels of spiciness to better suit one’s preference.
One of Nishiki Market’s most popular stores that sell fresh and locally made snacks is Konna Monja. This store specializes in tofu donuts, which come in bite-sized, delectable pieces that are completely made out of tofu, eliminating the guilty feeling one would get for consuming a bag of donuts in one go.
Stopping by at Konna Monja before or after going through the other stores of the Nishiki Market allows one to have a healthy snack on hand to start or finish the day off.
Given that the Nishiki Market started off as a wholesale fish marketplace, it is not surprising that countless fish stores make up a big percentage of the shopping street. A yummy snack that tourists must absolutely try at the market is the sashimi stick.
Sengyo Kimura, one of the oldest fish stores of the Nishiki Market, offers various kinds of seafood and fish for relatively cheap prices. Their sashimi sticks only cost about 200 yen per stick and are among the best in the market, if not the best.
Soy Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream
Keeping in line with its goal to remain a healthy dessert shop, Konna Monja also specializes in soy milk soft serve ice cream.
Customers usually order a cup of ice cream from the store but they can also be ordered together with their other food items. Their tofu croquette, in particular, goes incredibly well with their ice cream.
A store called Houkyuuan is known for selling a yummy snack referred to as the tempura stick, which is available in several varieties including octopus, potato butter, fish cake, and cheese.
It is not everyday that a person can buy a chocolate croquette for as cheap as 100 yen. The Inoue Tskudaniten of the Nishiki Market offers exactly that and many other items that remain true to Kyoto’s home-style dishes.
Daiyasu stands among the Nishiki Market’s most popular seafood stores that allow customers to dictate how they want their food to be cooked. The shop’s specialty is oysters, which may be ordered raw, simmered, or fried. Customers may also order a cup of Japanese sake to go along with their meal.
The Aritsugu Knives Store in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market
As previously mentioned, Kyoto’s Nishiki Market houses all kinds of food-related products. Aside from consumable goods, another popular item sold in the marketplace is the kitchen knife.
A shop known as Aritsugu can be found at the Nishiki Market and is among Japan’s best cutlery brands, alongside Masamoto.
Aritsugu was established back in 1560 by a local swordsmith, Fujiwara Aritsugu. At present, the shop is already being operated by the store’s 18th generation of owners.
With more than five hundred years to its name, Aritsugu is considered to be the leading brand in Western Japan. In fact, Aritsugu was among the few brands who became suppliers for the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The brand’s attention to quality has not faltered one bit since its establishment and has only continued to go up.
Aritsugu knives are still produced using traditional methods and differ from the common kitchen knives by making use of steel instead of stainless steel. Compared to other knives, those of the Aritsugu brand are significantly lighter but, interestingly, more durable.
The price range for Aritsugu knives start as low as 195 dollars and can go up to as high as 420 dollars per piece. Good-quality carbon steel knives are also available from the brand for about 200 – 300 dollars per piece.
Aritsugu also sells many other utensils at the Nishiki Market including cups, scissors, molds, and pots. The brand also carries a wide array of tools ideal for making tea, grating vegetables, and cracking gingko nuts.
Their store also houses a service and maintenance station where customers can have their tools sharpened for a fee. Aritsugu also offers engraving services right next to this station so customers can have their purchased products customized with their name or initials.
Tourists should note that the Nishiki Market’s Aritsugu store only accepts cash payments. As such, those who plan to purchase an item or two from the popular cutlery brand should make it a point to have more than enough cash on hand before going to the marketplace.
Map & Access to Kyoto’s Nishiki Market – Train, Bus, Etc.
The Nishiki Market is situated parallel to the Shijo Avenue, about one block away. From the Shijo Station, tourists can easily make their way to the marketplace by simply taking a five-minute walk towards the north.
Those who will be coming from other cities of Japan should take note of the following routes that can be taken to get to Kyoto:
Kyoto is connected to Tokyo through the JR Tokaido Shinkansen. The one-way trip usually takes about 140 minutes of travel time and costs about 13,000 yen per person for non-reserved seating or 14,000 yen per person for reserved seating.
Alternatively, the Hokuriku Shinkansen may also be taken to reach Kyoto from Tokyo by first going through Kanazawa. This route is significantly longer in terms of travel time but does offer tourists a chance to explore the Hokuriku Region.
By Local Train
Local trains that offer trips between Kyoto and Tokyo take a total of nine hours to get from one end to the other and requires a series of train transfers.
By Highway Bus
Highway buses are also available to and from Tokyo. A one-way trip using this mode of transportation usually takes a maximum of eight hours to get to the other end. Depending on the type of bus taken, the cost for one trip can range from 3,500 to 10,000 yen per person.
For those who want to avoid the long hours of travel, a plane can be taken to the Itami Airport of Osaka which serves as the closest one to the city of Kyoto. From the Haneda Airport of Tokyo, the trip usually just takes an hour to reach the destination.
Afterward, tourists can take a bus from the Itami Airport to Central Kyoto, which will take another hour of travel time.
Opening Hours and Closed Days of Kyoto’s Nishiki Market
The opening hours of each store at the Nishiki Market varies from one another. In general, tourists can start exploring the area as early as 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM. It should also be noted that most of the stores close at least once a week, usually on Wednesdays or Sundays.
Other Must-Visit Markets in Kyoto, Japan
Aside from the Nishiki Market, Kyoto houses many other places considered to be shopping paradises. Some of the best and must-visit areas that each tourist should consider adding to his itinerary include:
For those who want to experience the old days of Kyoto while shopping to their heart’s content, a trip to the Higashiyama District is highly recommended. This area can be found around Kiyomizudera and houses a wide array of souvenirs, handicrafts, and specialty food items.
Various restaurants and stores line up the stone-paved streets of the Higashiyama District, which also houses well-preserved wooden buildings and traditional inns (ryokan) that date back many centuries ago.
There are also several hotel options available near the district for those who want to maximize their tour of the charming place.
Kyoto Handicraft Center
The Kyoto Handicraft Center located a few meters north of the Heian Shrine serves as a one-stop shop for souvenir items. Some of the most popular products sold at the complex include damascene jewelry, folding fans, lacquerware, kokeshi dolls, woodblock prints, and yukata robes.
Toji Temple and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine Flea Markets
Some of Kyoto’s temples and shrines host flea markets at least once a month. The most popular ones are those of the Toji Temple and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine which are typically held on the 21st and 25th days of every month, respectively.
These flea markets offer a lot of interesting and unique stuff such as art, plants, antiques, tools, and clothing.