Grilled as you like it

Nishiki-Koji Market April 18, 2008

nuka-zuke pickle shop at the end of the day

Nishiki-koji is the fabulous and famous food market of Kyoto, also known as the Kitchen of Kyoto. Discriminating chefs and housewives come here for a variety of traditional ingredients, only-found-in-Kyoto kyo-yasai, and super-seasonal produce. To find it, look for the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine tucked between the shops of the Teramachi-dori arcade. If you step through the gate and into the shrine you will be surprised to find it is much bigger than it looks from the outside. It is busy with visitors, particularly students wishing for success in their exams. When you leave the shrine, instead of turning left or right back down Teramachi-dori, walk straight ahead, and this street will become Nishiki-koji-dori.

entrance of Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine a famous Kyoto pickle shop

Here you will find 130 shops, many stocking only one type of traditional ingredient. First you might come across the nuka-zuke pickle shop. Farther down the street you will find shops with vinegared pickles and miso pickles. Check out the woman with the roasted soybean snacks. Although the beans are expensive, she gladly hands around samples. You will find produce shops, rice shops, and fish shops. One shop stocks only katsuo (bonito): whole pieces and shaved , in various thicknesses, while another stocks only kombu. Further on, you can find shops selling tamago-yaki, freshly made tofu, handmade fu, sembei crackers, and a variety of fishcakes. You’ll also find the famous Aritsugu knife-maker here. They have a small branch in the outer market of Tsukiji, but their Kyoto store is really something.

Aritsugu knife shop, a 400 year-old family business, getting ready to open in the morning

vegetable shop with produce and kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables)

Of course, it is difficult for most tourists to take home many of the products available, such as the pickles and fresh tofu, since they must be refrigerated. Rest assured, however, there is plenty available for a traveler without a kitchen to return home to. The shop with various tamago-yaki has an item called fukusa-yaki that is easy to eat out-of-hand and made a great snack. There is a shop selling dango with many different fillings and flavors. Try the steamed fish-cake stall or one of the many restaurants. Many of the shops also have a display of samples to entice you to linger or buy something. And if you’re enjoying the Kyo-ryori during your stay, coming to Nishiki-koji is a great way to see what all of those fabulous ingredients look like before the chef works his or her magic.

soybean candies (white sesame, black sesame, and matcha flavor pictured), roasted soybean snacks, and roasted soybean tea

cucumber nuka-zuke (rice bran pickles)

I used to come here to stroll on rainy weekends when I was studying in Osaka, so I really wanted to come back on our spring break trip to Kyoto. Due to the our tight scheduling, we only had time to come on our way to and from Arashiyama (Since we were transferring from the Keihan line to the Hankyu line, it made sense to take a stroll through the market as we walked between the stations). We arrived early in the morning, around 8:30, before some of the shops had opened. I wasn’t able to get a daifuku from my favorite mochi shop but we picked up some dango and fukusa-yaki instead. I also picked up some salt-pickled sakura (cherry blossoms), pickled sakura-flavored daikon, preserved mountain vegetables, and black-sesame coated roasted soybean candies to take home. After our day at Arashiyama, we returned to the market, but it was closing time for most of the shops, so I missed the mochi shop again. I do recommend arriving early, as it’s enjoyable to watch the shopkeepers setting up and putting all of their products out for display.

To get there, walk from Keihan Shijo or Hankyu Karasuma or Kawarmachi.

steaming fish cakes

nuka-zuke pickle shop – eggs – miso pickle shop

fish cakes – radish pickles – fukusa-yaki

bonito – kombu – ginger and naga-negi (green onions)

takenoko (fresh bamboo shoots) signal springtime – turnip pickles with chiles – fresh radishes


One Response to “Nishiki-Koji Market”

  1. […] on Nishiki-dori street, close to Teramachi-dori street and ShinKyougoku-dori street. There are many small shops and restaurants nearby in the covered market and a great place to visit if it’s wet […]

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