Kyoto’s Nishiki Market Street Food: Beware of Overeating!

In Asia, one of the most famous things is great street food! In Kyoto, you can explore Japanese street food at Nishiki Market. While some Japanese festivals offer food from vendors, this experience is a bit different. In local towns, there are market streets where you can buy ready-made food for lunch, dinner, and snacks. Here at Nishiki Market, it’s more of a tourist attraction, but you don’t miss out on its original features. Just remember not to overeat – the food is so delicious!

I must tell you that nowadays in Japan, sadly street markets are closing down in many local towns due to the presence of big supermarkets. They can’t make enough profit to compete with the big companies. Thus, Nishiki Market is one where you don’t miss anything (thanks to the tourists).

Enjoy Japanese local food!

Kyoto’s Kitchen: Nishiki Market Street Food!

Before the rise in popularity of supermarkets, shopping arcades were common in every provincial town, featuring little deli shops, butchers, vegetable shops, and more. When I was young, I accompanied my mother to the local street market in Yokohama. It was just like Nishiki Market, offering a wide array of choices, even in small quantities like 100g or a single piece of deep-fried potato croquette. I asked my mum to buy whatever I wanted to eat for dinner that day.

However, sadly, most of these shops have been forced to close down. I understand the convenience of shopping in one big supermarket instead of having to visit multiple shops. Nonetheless, these closed arcades are now referred to as ‘shutter-arcades,’ where only the shutters are visible.

Anyway, Nishiki Market is an exceptional example of a successfully well-organised market for tourists. I visited other shopping arcades in Kyoto, but they were not the same as this. I enjoy visiting local shops, but sadly, I’ve seen many shuttered arcades.

What You Get In Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market (錦市場 – Nishiki Ichiba) is about 400 years old and boasts more than 100 shops in a very narrow shopping arcade, often referred to as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen.’

It’s also known as ‘Kyoto’s kitchen.’ This market opens from about 10 am to 6 pm daily, attracting many tourists who come for snacks and to explore local Kyoto lifestyles, as well as for shopping.

Fresh Seafood

My mistake, I couldn’t take any photos of the grilled ayu last time; I was too busy and excited to eat ayu (not just one, I had three ayu fish). Ayu is my favourite food, however, I found one on Instagram, on the official Nishiki Market account.

At Nishiki Market, you can buy various basic Japanese foods. When I visited there, the first thing I tried was Ayu! Ayu is a fish of the Ayu family that lives in rivers with clean water. It has a yellowish-green body and small scales, and it is considered a specialty of East Asia, especially Japan. Ayu is prized as an edible delicacy for its beautiful appearance and aroma.

And more, there were other grilled fish, sashimi, and fish cakes, just like in the photo. It was so fresh and there was a lot of variety to choose from. You can also eat from these shops, these shop owners have chopsticks and soy souse to take away, or eating just standing there.

These little tako (octopus) have a quail egg on top of their heads. it’s really yummy though, I had two.

Deep Fried Tempra or Japanese Fish Cakes

Japanese fish cakes are quite popular for dinners. You can get vegetable tempura or fish cakes; they are all deep-fried. I tried the Gobo fish cake. Whitefish was ground and mixed with seasoning, then deep-fried. These were so yummy and tasty. there are many different shop to buy different types of fish cakes.

Japanese Traditional Delis for Small Dishes

At Japanese traditional dinner time, there are often many small dishes. My husband asked me whether we always had 5 or 6 small dishes. Well, yes and no. In a typical old-fashioned Japanese dinner, like in my parents’ era, they do have many dishes on the table every night. But nowadays, with Westernized dinner styles, having only one dish is more common.

But you can imagine how hard it is to make many dishes, like 5 or 6 dishes, excluding rice and miso soup every night! Then, here we go: Japanese people (I can add Japanese typical wives) go to the supermarket or shops like in Nishiki Market to buy a little bit of this and that, from 100g or more.

Japanese Tsukudani

Tsukudani is a Japanese food simmered in soy sauce and sugar. Its origin is said to have been when small fish were simmered in a salty sauce and preserved as a food, with the leftovers sold as ‘tsukudani’. Small fish such as smelt and sand eel, shellfish such as clams, and seaweed such as kelp are used to make tsukudani. Sometimes shiso or sesame seeds are added. There is also beef tsukudani, which is said to be delicious when eaten with rice.

Tsukudani can be preserved for a long time in the refrigerator, so when you are too busy or too tired to make dinner, you can simply add it on top of rice.

Thus, they make great souvenirs for Japanese people. I bought some for my home; of course, they’re for myself, as none of my family can eat them. You have to grow up with that.

Japanese Pickles: Nukazuke

Nowadays, Nukazuke is becoming popular all around the world. Nukazuke is a type of pickle made using rice bran. There are various types of Nukazuke, including Nuka miso pickles, which are made by pickling vegetables in a rice bran bed (Nukadoko) fermented by lactic acid bacteria. Other varieties include dobu pickles, dobo pickles, and takuan, which is made by pickling daikon radish without using a rice bran bed. The term also encompasses ingredients pickled with salt and bran sprinkled on them, such as braised herring and bran saury.

In Nukazuke, vegetables with high water content, such as cucumbers, eggplants, and daikon radish, are commonly pickled on a nuka bed. Additionally, vegetables like celery and paprika, which were not traditionally pickled in rice bran before the Edo period, have become popular in recent years. A variety of other ingredients are also used, including meat, fish, boiled eggs, and konjac. Those pickled for a short period are called ‘asazuke’ or ‘ichiyazuke,’ while those pickled for a long time are called ‘furuzuke’ or ‘hinezuke.

A lot of families have their own recipes for Nukazuke. I used to make them, but it’s sometimes hard to maintain the right conditions; you have to mix it every day. Well, if you’re too lazy, you can keep it in the fridge all year long. But in Japan, you can buy really nice Nukazuke from shops like the ones in these photos. Why not? I would love to buy some!

Japanese Traditional Sweets Or Creamy Sweets

Again, here at Nishiki Market, you can find almost everything. After trying all sorts of Japanese food, you can indulge in sweets. Of course, you can choose from Japanese traditional sweets or Western-style creamy sweets, whatever you like.

While I was walking through the Nishiki arcade, I saw mochi on a stick with sweet soy sauce on it. It was grilled a bit, so you could taste the smokiness. I used to have a lot of this, so why not? (But I was almost full, so only one stick was enough).

How To Get There

Ok, do you want to go there to eat all these street foods? The easiest way is to use Google Map!

Address is ; 609 Nishidaimonji-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture

Scroll to Top