While we were only in Kyoto for 2 days we really wanted to make sure we saw the best of what Kyoto had to offer. We went to Nijo Castle and on a food tour and so we saw that a great place to explore was Nishiki Market. We went to the market and had a look around before going on the Ninja Food Tour Kyoto. On the tour, we tried different foods and learnt a lot about how each region makes Japanese food their own. Check out our Nishiki market food guide to help you find new and traditional foods in Kyoto.
About Nishiki Market
Nishiki market is a narrow street 5 blocks long that has been around since 1310. The market is also known as ‘Kyotos kitchen’ delivering and cooking up delights for locals and tourists to enjoy.
Most of the stalls within the market specialise in one product or style. There are many places you guy buy spices and dry ingredients, there are also many stalls with huge displays of impressive frozen seafood and some offering up tasty seafood tempura and more. The market has something for everyone to eat and enjoy.
Some of the stalls offer up free samples of what they have made and are selling. Some have a wide variety of foods to eat fresh and some of the stalls have places to sit down and eat. They do ask you not to walk and eat, waste and rubbish are to be left with the vendor in which it was purchased.
Much of the market has been established for several centuries and more often than not the stalls have been in families generations for a long time. The market started off as a fish wholesale market and in later years turned into retail.
Opening Times – 9.30am – 6pm.
These times may vary depending on the time of year.
Address – 〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 富小路通四条上る西大文字町609番地
How To Get There
Nishiki Market is simple to find and can be found from walking 30 – 45 minutes from Nijo Castle or even getting the metro. You can find the market a few minutes walk from Shijo Station on the Karasuma Subway Line or Karasuma or Kawaramachi Stations on the Hankyu Line.
Nishiki Market Food Guide
We were lucky enough to be taken to Nishiki Market when on a food tour with Ninja Food Tours. (link to tour post) While on our tour we tried 3 different stalls for things to eat, 2 of them being my favourite from the tour were the fried eel and soy milk doughnuts.
Soy Milk Donuts
Another Nishiki Market favourite. These were introduced to us while on the food tour and I wanted to come back to finish up there too. The doughnuts were so light and soft with a crispy coating. The doughnuts were delicious as they were and didn’t need anything else added to them. There was no need for any dipping sauce or sugar as they were just delicious on their own.
We had tried tempura eel on our tour and it was delicious. The hamo conga eel was fresh, fluffy and extremely delicious. The eel was cooked just right so the fish was light and fluffy with the crispy coating of the batter. This is my top thing in Niskiki market food guide as I was completely surprised by the flavour and texture. There were plenty more things to try on that stall so don’t be afraid to get a platter together.
These are by far the most popular thing to see in the market, many stalls are selling the small octopus on a stick. There were more popular with locals than tourists but I can see why. If you like trying new foods, especially if you like seafood or just something out of the ordinary this is for you.
These are quite unique to Kyoto as they have pure water to enable vegetables to stay fresher for longer and be preserved. Some of the stalls may offer out a sample, try them and see what you think. We tried similar foods in a standing bar on the Ninja Food Tour Kyoto.
Custard Filled Hedgehog
These were by far the cutest thing for sale I had seen that was edible of course! The hedgehogs are pastry with cuts in the top to create spikes. They are filled with custard and sometimes chocolate. They are made fresh and can be found at a famous stall in the market. The stall has been featured in magazines, papers and had a couple of Japanese celebrities visit. This stall had to be featured on my Nishiki market food guide as the food was delicious and they were so friendly to us.
Uba With Mushrooms And Greens
Uba is the skin that forms when boiling tofu. It is then used in a dish with mushroom and greens cooked in soy and mirin sauce. We had this on the tour and is served in the same place as the custard filled hedgehogs. The dish was different and actually tasted good. The look of the dish and the sound of it doesn’t sound appealing but it is worth trying.
Okonomiyaki – Special To Kyoto
This is similar to the cabbage based one found in other areas of Japan. This version is special to Kyoto as it is folded and made with seafood. The pancake can be found ready-made and cooked for you to enjoy at the market. Some restaurants may give you the ingredients for you to make on the griddle yourself which can be quite fun. I had to include this on the Nishiki market food guide as it is a dish that is made unique to each region of Japan and would be rude not to try it.
Wagyu beef is growing in popularity and most definitely in Japan. The Japanese even call a certain type Kobe beef or Kyoto beef. While on our food tour we were taken to try some but I did notice a restaurant within the market serving Kobe beef/Wagyu beef. The beef is delicious, full of flavour and is must try the food. This has to be on your Nishiki market food tour as it is so fresh and cooked so well that you will just want more and more. I like beef but don’t tend to eat much as the variants of how it is cooked differ too much and can be too dry. This was perfect for me as it was soft but not too chewy or fatty and it was full of flavour.
Croquet/ Breadcrumbed Food
There was a particular stall or two that specialised in offering up foods that were covered in breadcrumbs. Someone we met called the croquet as that is essentially what they are. The stall we found were serving up curry, onion and potato croquet and wood ear mushroom croquet. There were plenty more versions and foods to try and I would recommend trying plenty while on your Nishiki market food tour. They came highly recommended and if you are looking for something a little safer I would try these. Also, the stall was great as the signs were in English as well as Japanese.
Anyone travelling with children who may want something sweet but not sure of the Japanese sweets yet. Or you just fancy a crepe, there is a crepe stall in the market. It was, of course, selling the average crepes and some more intriguing combinations too. This isn’t exactly a traditional dish you would expect to find on Nishiki Market food guide but the new combinations of flavours and toppings made this intriguing for me. Also if you are a little unsure about trying new foods this is a nice way to chat yourself into trying something new.
Sparrow And Quail
Though this wasn’t something I wanted to try I added it to the list as it was mentioned on the tour we were on. There was a stall within Nishiki Market that were selling Sparrow and Quail wings on a skewer. I included this on the Nishiki market food guide as I had never seen a sparrow to eat before and they also had another number of unique dishes to try.
What You Can Buy At Nishiki Market
I think the more important question is what can I not buy? There are finely crafted items all along the market from umbrellas to chopsticks to small colourful gifts. There are stalls dedicated to Kyoto Bamboo chopsticks, handmade wooden umbrellas and small detailed gifts to take home. We also saw sweet shops, sock shops and cosmetic shops. The beauty of the shops were that so many of them were genuine hand crafted items that you would rarely see.
I will point out that though I never use an umbrella this lady made me want one as she was so sweet and fun.
There is something for everyone at the market whether you are into trying new foods or finding new places to shop. Nishiki market is in a lovely setting and is the hub of activity in the area. I would definitely say it is worth checking out even if just for an afternoon. The Nishiki Market food guide will help you understand the food more and gives you an idea of what to try and expect.