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Nishiki Ichiba Food Market in Kyoto, Japan

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This 400-year-old covered food market in Kyoto is one of the best I've ever visited.

The market is open almost every day, including on New Year's Eve and 1st of January. It consists of a 400-meters long covered shopping arcade and consists of 100 shops and a dense crowd of locals reminding Tokyo's subway at peak hours. Shops sell Japanese food, mostly fresh and home made, as well as as much street food as you can want. Probably all you'll buy are fancy rice crackers or a knife, but if you are interested in food you are in for a memorable visit. As they say in Kyoto, 'There is no kind of food you cannot find at Nishiki ichiba'.

 

 

 

The Japanese are very found of sea cucumbers, a slimy but expensive delicacy here seen in its fully glory. The japanese police had just arrested a sea cucumber poaching gang in late December. A fine catch indeed.

 

One of many shops specialized in sweet rice cakes.

 

A bunch of giant Japanese pickles.

 

This shop was turning out hundreds of the little custard-filled cakes every hour with this amazing machine rather than the usual baking tray. The machine is prominently displayed in the shop window and an army of servants feeds it custard and hand finishes the cake. You can buy them fresh off the press.

 

These octopus balls being freshly cook by a young Japanese lady are very typical of Kyoto and Osaka and were recommended to me by Thierry Marx, a Japan-loving young French cook. Basically bits of fresh octopi are mixed with crepe batter and cooked in trays of spherical molds. You eat the brown balls and the hot batter comes splashing out and burn your tongue. As always in Japan, this food is freshly cooked in front of you with the best ingredients and has little fat or sugar. So you can eat it all day long!

 



Buying a knife is serious business in Japan. Here a gentleman is stamping my name in Japanese in a small vegetable knife at Aritsugu, one of Japan's oldest knifemakers and official supplier to the Imperial family. No less.

 



One of Aritsugu craftsmen is checking his assymetrical sharpening on my new knife. You pay the knife before they sharpen and stamp it, apparently a long established business tradition here.

 



I would have loved one of these intriguing pliers to carve chickens, but the lady wouldn't sell. These are for gardening she said. You don't argue with so many knifes around!

 

 



This market is one of the few places in Japan where you can't complacently assume you are the only foreigner. But you can still expect less than 5% non-Japanese tourists. And the locals are also sensible to the unique charm of this market, as you can see from this japanese TV crew. I think the lady on the left was trying to tell me that photographing them filming me was just not done in Japan. I played possum.

Nishiki Food Market
Shijo Agaru
Tominokoji-dori
Nakagyo-ku
Kyoto Japan
Phone: 075-211-3882

Subway Karasuma Line to "Shijo". Hankyu Line to "Karasuma".
Open most of the time but call ahead to check.

Published 18/01/2007
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5 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Mario Ornelas
  • on: 14/04/2008
I truly enjoyed your article & the photos really seem to express the constant movement that I remember from 26 years ago. I wonder if you could recomend any online stores where I could buy a can or cans of (Yours lemon flavored powder).I haven't been able to find it in the US, I've looked for years. It was so common in japan. Oh well if you could help out in this matter I'd be gratefull        Mario Ornelas Capt.USMC Ret.             
  • #2
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 14/04/2008
Mario thanks for visiting and glad my little article  revived some memories of what must have been like an exciting part of your life! I do not know this product unfortunately, but believe there are several Japanese food stores with online stores, perhaps you can find it there. Sorry I can't help more!
  • #3
  • Comment by sets
  • on: 24/01/2009
WOW -- I worked in one of those booths for a short time some years ago.
  • FX's answer→ Sets, I was back in this market last month, it really is one of the (many) great sights of Japan, at least to me!

  • #5
  • Comment by tim
  • on: 28/06/2009
nice photos! i went to these markets last year but couldn't remember the name of them, so i did a search and your page came up. i have an almost identical photo of the lady selling the eggs. she's even wearing the same top!

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