Food is art in this centuries-old Kyoto market
It’s fitting that the former capital, Kyoto, houses Nishiki Market—possibly Japan’s finest, historic food street. For over 400 years, this arcade in the city center has supplied premium produce to chefs, locals and curious gourmands.
It’s a gastronomic time tunnel, with traditional shops run by the same family over generations, next to contemporary stores. Close to 130 businesses sell regional Kyoto, Japanese or international foods, or kitchenware from high-end to cheap. So, something for all tastes.
The goods at Nishiki Market are impeccably presented. This is Kyoto after all, home of elegant tea ceremonies and keiseki ryori (traditional multi-course Japanese dinner cuisine). The market is sparkling clean with artistic displays. Pure, soft artesian water flows underneath and is drawn to wash, cook or pickle foods or make tea.
Don’t let the fancy atmosphere stop you from eating while walking. Snacking and sampling is encouraged. There are also many sit-down eateries.
Kanematsu features Kyoto’s prized kyo yasai heirloom vegetables and a second floor restaurant. Kyo yasai have been cultivated since the Edo period. Takakuraya showcases seasonal vegetable pickles in wooden barrels.
Tanaka Keiran specializes in dishes with eggs from hens fed powdered black beans. Try fluffy omelette skewers or miso-flavoured quiche. For modern sweets, visit Sawara for green tea desserts or Konna Monja for soymilk ice cream and doughnuts.
The scent of freshly roasted hojicha tea wafts from Yamadashiya. Sake shop Tsunoki is around 220 years old and offers brews from nearby Fushimi, Japan’s second largest sake area.
Aritsugu, since 1560, was a former sword smith to the imperial court and now handcrafts high-quality knives. Snoopy Cha-ya is a more recent 2016 addition – a Peanuts-themed shop and café. The Japanese are world leaders in cuteness overload.
The market’s lively vibe pulses through its surrounding streets, which boast more grocers and dining hotspots like famous ramen joint Ippudo.
Nishiki Market can get crowded so go early to avoid feeling pummeled like the mochi dough in the live pounding demonstrations at Mochitsukiya. After 6 p.m. the stall shutters slide down, revealing paintings befitting the beauty of Kyoto.