One of the top sights in Kyoto City, which is perfect for couples who enjoy trying out interesting new activities (and food!) together, is Nishiki Market, a bustling covered market steeped in history and tradition that extends for five whole blocks and has over one hundred shops and restaurants!
Running parallel to Shijo Avenue, just one block further north, Nishiki Market is a hub of activity from about 9 o’clock in the morning until the stalls begin to close around 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening.
Grab your partner and make sure you’re ready to try out some delicious snacks. The best thing to do is start on one end of the market and work your way to the other end. The entire stretch of stalls is covered as well, and though it gets very busy – particularly on weekends – this is the perfect place to explore even on a rainy day.
From the delicious pickled aubergines, eggs, onions and other vegetables that are what Kyoto is famous for, to fresh fish and jellied soaps, traditional knick-knacks and Japanese wagashi sweets, there is sure to be something to put a smile on anyone’s face. Most of what you see at Nishiki Market is produced or procured in the area, so visiting is a great way to say thank you to the hardworking local vendors. The food is in often interesting and traditional arrangements and displays, and the stall owners cheerfully greet the locals and tourists who go by. The colourful pickled vegetables are called otsukemono in Japanese and are made to cleanse the palate. You will find these spilling out of wooden barrels along the market and can buy them to bring them home with you too as they do not expire too quickly.
One of the most popular and perhaps bizarre (even for Japanese people!) things to try are the small octopuses on a skewer. These are available from anywhere between 100 and 400 yen depending on their size. Bite into it and you’ll find a small hard-boiled quail’s egg inside its head! This sweet and salty snack is very tasty, but for those put off by its unusual appearance, it’s a good thing there are two of you so you can share one between you.
Other foods famously delicious in Kyoto are fresh tofu and Kyo-yasai local heirloom vegetables, which are said to be more rich in colour and nutrients than normal vegetables. As you walk along the market trying the samples, make sure you check that something really is a sample and not something you need to pay for before you pop it in your mouth.
The snacks and treats you find here also make great souvenirs for the friends and family you left at home so they feel a bit better about the fact that they weren’t on a romantic getaway… It isn’t all just food either. You’ll find special Kyoto sake, dolls, mirrors, toys and decorations here too that are perfect as small gifts – for others or for yourselves as a memento of your trip.
The great thing about Nishiki is that it is such an explosion of cuisine and culture that does not break the bank. You can spend however much or little time and money as you like here and still come away having absorbed some of the crazy atmosphere! Foodie or not, get out and enjoy your date to what is commonly known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”.
Nishiki Market is easily accessible by foot from Shijo, Karasuma or Kawaramachi stations and plenty of buses stop nearby too. For those getting there by bike, Pontocho Bike Locker has 24 hour parking for only 150 yen.