Nishiki Market Kyoto

Nishiki_Market

The Japanese city of Kyoto is famous for its temples, gardens and castles, but it is also home to probably the best food market that I have ever visited, the Nishiki Market.

The Nishiki Market runs along a covered laneway for five city blocks, and each side of the laneway is filled with narrow shops which are filled with an unbelievable range of food stuffs, most of which are locally grown and prepared on the premises.

Apparently, its local name, Nishiki Ichiba, means “brocade market”.  Perhaps that is a reference to its past, because the street isn’t filled with brocade any longer.  Instead it offers the visitor a slow stroll past a large variety of foods which look to be mouth-watering delicious.

Most of the food markets that I have visited in many parts of the world seem to be more concerned about selling produce quickly.  Food is fresh, and plentiful, but there is little attempt at display.

That’s not so at the Nishiki Market, where presentation seems to be of utmost importance, and probably reflects the Japanese importance of ceremony.  The shop owners of Nishiki Market certainly do understand that customers eat with their eyes first.

The shops are spotlessly clean, and great care is taken with display.

At some shops, the food simply looks too good to eat. You get the feeling that if you remove an item for purchase, you will be disturbing an artist’s work.

The market has been a feature of Kyoto for several centuries, and individual stores have belonged to the same families for many generations.  Here, you can easily judge the pride with which purveyors prepare their goods.

Most shops specialise in a small number of dishes, or particular types of food.

I stood inside one shop amazed at the incredible variety of pickled vegetables on display. Another sold many different types of honey, and passers-by were welcome to taste.

The Nishiki Market sells not only food, but also cookware, crockery and chopsticks.

Here too was Aritsugu, which specialised in producing hand-crafted knives which looked like miniature swords.  A few questions revealed that the store has been in business since 1560, and was indeed started by a master swordsmith who decided that producing fine cooking knives would be a much more secure business.

Kyoto is a lovely city to visit.  A city if great culture, the Nishiki Market is worth visiting, if just to see same age-old traditions still been practised with pride.

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