This blog post was updated on October 31, 2018.
Known as Kyoto’s kitchen, people have been buying and selling food and food related items in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market since the 1300s. A stroll through this mile long, covered food market is a must for gourmets, history buffs or anybody who loves a good bargain. Just make sure that when you visit that you go hungry! From home made fish cakes, conger eel tempora, freshly roasted chestnuts and all sorts of pickled everything, Nishiki is one of the most delicious shopping experiences you can imagine and a brilliant spot for edible and otherwise souvenir shopping too.
Nishiki market runs five city blocks and features nearly 130 shops which range in offering from cheap ceramics (along with plenty of not so cheap ceramics) to knives that have been traditionally hand crafted in the same shop since the 16th century and the rarest and most sought after Japanese delicacies. Some shops are little more than a stall while others are the size of a regular grocery store.
Of course, the main draw for most here is the food. Many of the shops offer free samples while many others sell bite sized and to-go versions of their products. One potential strategy for making the most of your forage is make a lunch date of it. Prefer a sit down dinner? No problem, you’re never too far from a great restaurant in Kyoto (or anywhere in Japan for that matter). You’ll find a range of dining options in and nearby the market with many eateries offering dishes made from ingredients sources straight from the market.
Whatever your method you intend to use for checking out Nishiki Market, be sure to have cash on hand. Many of the vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards, particularly foreign ones. It’s probably worth keeping in mind that, as much of an historic attraction as the place is, Nishiki is also still a bustling and active commercial center. Sightseers (local, domestic and international) are certain welcome and kindly attended to (without having too much of an amusement park effect), but the main reason the majority of people go to Nishiki is to do their shopping. Consider visiting outside the hours of normal commuting between home and work.
Nishiki Market is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The best days to visit when the most vendors are operating are Wednesday and Sunday. Admission is free. Nishiki melds with a delightful labyrinth of other markets, shopping arcades, shrines, temples and more for some very pleasant pedestrian exploration of Kyoto old and new. Find out more about Nishiki Market at its official site, kyoto-nishiki.or.jp/english
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Photo: Chris Osburn