Nishiki market is a narrow street 5 blocks long that has been around since 1310. The market is also known as Kyoto’s kitchen delivering and cooking up delights for locals and tourists to enjoy.
Most of the stalls within the market specialize 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.
Table of Contents
- How To Get To Nishiki Market
- Where To Shop Within The Market
- What You Should Know Before Visiting
- What Is Nearby Nishiki Market?
- Best Time To Visit Nishiki Market For Food Tasting
- What To Eat In Nishiki Market
- What Hotels and Accommodations Are Nearby?
How To Get To Nishiki Market
Travelling in Japan is, really, a pleasure if you’re from a place with sub-par public transport. In my home town, I used to have to wait thirty minutes or more for the bus that would take me home from school every day!
In Kyoto, they have mastered the art of elegant public transport.
The street upon which Nishiki Market sits runs parallel to Shijo Avenue, which is somewhat of a main road in the local neighbourhood. On Shijo avenue there are two subway stations, each serviced by different subway lines. Both of these stations are less than five minute walk from Nishiki market.
The first station is Shijo Street station on the Karasuma Subway Line, and the other station is Karasuma Street station on the Hankyu line. The stations are so named because they’re on the crossroads of Karasuma Street and Shijo Avenue – they’re extremely close together in reality.
Where To Shop Within The Market
The market’s speciality is, realistically speaking, food. This means that there are a huge variety of different ingredients and meals on offer – if you’re feeling overwhelmed them we get it. Make sure to check out our ranking of the best food to eat at the market lower down in this article!
If you’re looking to do some shopping in the market and you want something to take away with you, we’d recommend hunting down some traditional Japanese sweets. These sweets, called wagashi, are part of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and are designed to represent the seasons or elements of nature.
Typically, the little delights will be made from plant ingredients, and are always crafted very delicately. Nishiki Market is the ideal spot to try sweets individually or to buy selections to take home.
What You Should Know Before Visiting
At its heart, the Nishiki market is just that – a market. This means that there isn’t too much to know that you likely don’t already know from markets that you’ve been to before. In fact, there are only two things that really stand out for us to mention to you: Aritsugu knives, and the Tenmangu Shrine.
As well as finding spectacular food and produce at the market, there are a huge number of different cooking implements available for purchase. An adored souvenir is personalized engraved chopsticks, especially the ones available from the Ichihara Heibei Shoten store.
Aritsugu knives are adored by chefs around the world. Aritsugu traces its history back to sword-making in 1560, and now the store is still run by the same family. The knives are exceptionally high quality, as well as being simply beautiful!
The Tenmangu Shrine is a historic building that has been moved around an awful lot since the original was built a thousand years ago.
Since then, it has wandered the country and found itself resting just outside the Nishiki market in the present day. You probably know it from photos and movies – it has a striking wall of cream-colored lanterns with red elements and Japanese script.
The god of learning is the object of worship at Tenmengu, which means that the building is used for prayers of luck in studying, schoolwork, and exams.
If you’re hunting for souvenirs, this would be a good place to get one for the academics in your life – you can get plum-shaped amulets that hold a written wish. After the wish is inside them, they are hung on a nearby tree to help make the wish come true.
What Is Nearby Nishiki Market?
Interestingly, the Nishiki market is exceptionally central in Kyoto.
If you’ve just finished up in the market itself and you want to extend your shopping spree, we’d recommend checking out the popular Shijo-Dori shopping street, which is exceptionally close.
In fact, if you took the subway to get to Nishiki market, there’s a fighting chance that you got out of the subway station, and walked through Shijo-Dori to get to Nishiki market.
Conversely, you might be a big fan of history and museums. Well, Kyoto has plenty of those! If you head out of the Nishiki market and head northwards, you’ll soon come into contact with Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace. Both of these spots are steeped in culture, meaning that they’re ideal to visit to appease the history buff within you.
Alternatively, the Manga Museum is also northwards and would provide a great place to check a gallery off your to-do list.
Best Time To Visit Nishiki Market For Food Tasting
Nishiki Market differs from other markets in Japan and does not have an early opening. Instead, the market opens at 9.30 am and closes at 6 pm.
The market is a busy place and can often get quite cramped with locals shopping and tourists browsing and taking photos. To avoid the crowds, and get the freshest food on offer we recommend heading to the market in the morning as it opens and leaving around midday as other tourists arrive.
As the market is quite narrow you don’t want to be carrying too much along with you, just to make your trip easier. The market offers places to sit in and eat such as a sushi restaurant and an Italian.
Alternatively, you can feast on the offerings from the open stalls, remember not to walk and eat.
If like us you are not sure what you would like to try but are open to trying new dishes the food tour is a great way to get started. There are some stalls that will offer up free samples for you to try on the spot too.
What To Eat In Nishiki Market
We were lucky enough to be taken to Nishiki Market when on a food tour with Ninja Food Tours.
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.
1. 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.
2. Fried Eel
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 the 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.
4. Pickled Vegetables
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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Wagyu Beef
Wagyu beef is growing in popularity and most definitely in Japan.? The Japanese even call a certain type of 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 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.
9. Croquet/ Breadcrumbed Food
There was a particular stall or two that specialized in offering up foods that were covered in breadcrumbs. Someone we met called the croquetas that is essentially what they are.
The stall we found was 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 the 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.
11. 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 Hotels and Accommodations Are Nearby?
As we said slightly earlier in this article, Nishiki market is extremely central in Kyoto. This means that there is, quite frankly, a staggering number of great hotels nearby. While there are several that we’re sure you’d be able to find online, there are two that stand out for us.
Firstly, there is Grids Kyoto. This is an amazing hotel and hostel, ideal for people with any budget. If you’re a bit strapped for cash and you’re coming through Kyoto as part of your gap year, you could check out the hostel section and get a room at a great price.
As is the way with Japanese hospitality, even budget rooms are fantastic – with places to charge your devices, secluded lights, and privacy curtains.