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A highlight for many of our trips is certainly the marketplace. It might be fresh vegetables in Rome, spices in Cairo or sweets in Istanbul, all these trigger memories based on lighting, sights and smells. Nishiki Market in Kyoto is certainly one of those that will last long in our memories.
The market is smaller than many world class bazarrs but the displays are unique and powerful. While not being overly familiar with Japanese food, we can surely tell you it has exotic smells, colorful presentations and simply far different from many Western goods.
There are many good grocery and convenience stores in Kyoto, but nothing will match the freshness of Nishiki Market. The first thing we’d like to point out is the cleanliness. The market is very narrow and goes for only 5 blocks, but the shops owners are constantly arranging and rearranging their products to ensure quality. As there are many fresh and dried seafood offerings the focus on cleaning is a top priority.
One of the biggest senses we felt engaged in the market was that of smell. It was certainly fishy, but not in the normal sense, it was utterly different and unknown, smells we have never smelled before but which we not overpowering or gross, just unique!
Each shop specializes in one type of food specialty, it might be sweets, seafood, produce, sushi or many other things we don’t even know how to classify. Curious tourists will be able to get a sample of almost anything being sold, so if you are adventurous and brave, you might eat your whole lunch by the time you walk the whole market. The shopkeepers are extremely nice and real give you the sense they enjoy their work. Many of these shops have been owned and operated by the same families for centuries.
The best way to locate the marketplace is to look for the covered arcade shopping streets. There is a street and station called Shijo to which subway and buses arrive from all over town. It is a good 20 minute walk from all the ancient attractions of Kyoto.