Located near Shijo Avenue and Kawaramachi Station is the popular “Nishiki Ichiba”, Nishiki Market. It was originally a wholesale fish market in the 1300. Over time, the wholesale market evolved into a retail market. Today, known as ” Kyōto ‘s Kitchen”, this lively market specializes in a variety of items, particularly food, including delicious mocha of all kinds and styles; fresh vegetables stalls; fresh seafood – fish, squid, scallop; fried tempura – seafood and veg; solid “hanakatsuo”, shaved fish; “wagashi”, Japanese sweets; “yaki senbei”, grilled crackers; dried seaweed,” kombu shinise” and many more. This is a great place to find Kyōto specialties and seasonal foods as most of the products and produce are sourced locally, a fascinating display of artisan produce.
There are over hundred vendors along a narrow covered lane just 400m long. Some shops seemed to be less than two meters wide. The aroma and mixed smells floated through the air – sweet, pungent and mouth- watering. There were a few eateries with a few seating. Our first stop was a fast food like restaurant – a café. The morning crowd was lively and business was brisk. We walked down the crowded path looking at products that were unknown to us. Small samples of food were distributed to entice shopper into their stores to explore the variety of culinary delights of Kyōto. Steam rose from a tiny fried tofu shop. Time to indulge again! Stuffed vegetables with fish paste, fried prawns and noodles in a clear soup with a rather large wooden spoon. It was light and tasted wonderful. Navindd and I had inkling towards the pickled vegetables and there were abound here. However, most stalls sold in bulk. Pickled and fermented vegetable, “tsukemono” – were displayed in large wooden barrels fermented in rice bran, “nukazuke” – radish, daikon, aubergine, cucumber, cabbage, turnip, etc.
The origin as a seafood market had not vanished. Seafood, fresh and dried, of all kinds – fish, scallops, octopus, squid, bonito, etc., glistened under artificial light. At one stall, little petite “mochi” were stacked to the brim. We had to get some. There were several types and a myriad of fillings. Lanterns, red and white, hung at the entrances of some retailers gave a traditional atmosphere. I went looking for a knife shop that was popular here in Kyōto, Aritsugu. This business had existed since 1560. They were originally producers of swords for the Imperial House of Japan. Now, they produce hand crafted knifes and cooking utensils. I bought a “santoku”, a chef’s knife. I was pleasantly surprised when they offered to engrave my name on it. Not only for practical use but also as a memento of our Japan journey. The grinding machinist was busy in the background. We had tried “matcha” and “ocha” tea throughout our journey. We chanced upon one here. The smell of roasted leaves was distinct. This would be a great as gifts too. As we were exiting the wonderful pathway, we caught the sight of blowfish, “Fugu” hung from the ceiling. This fish is poisonous but in a skillful chef’s hand, it can be a delicacy. Besides food; items such as traditional ceramic ware, trinkets and stuffed toys, folding fans, traditional Japanese foot wear, a variety of textiles and kimono are available here. At the arcade, I bought a “jinbei”, a Japanese summer wear. Nishiki Market had a pleasant, vibrant but relaxed atmosphere. It is an extraordinary kaleidoscope of Kyōto culture.