Nishiki Market, Kyoto, Japan

Sampling the multifaceted pleasures of Japan’s culinary crown jewel

By Nathalie Jordi

Published on February 24, 2013

Though I've visited so many great food bazaars in Japan, for my money, the centuries-old Nishiki market, located in the old imperial capital of Kyoto, is the country's most picturesque. Within the six-block covered arcade, shopkeepers entice housewives in full kimono, local kaiseki chefs, and curious tourists with katsuobushi (dried bonito), freshly roasted green tea, and Kyoto-style confections. I, too, am tempted by everything here, but I have my favorites. On the outskirts of the market, I love to browse Ichihara Heibei Shōten (81/75/341-3831), a well-ordered boutique where thousands of chopsticks are organized by type of wood (cedar, bamboo, birch), use (eating, cooking), and style (seemingly infinite). And I've spent a small fortune on knives at Aritsugu (81/75/221-1091), a former samurai sword manufacturer that dates back to the 16th century. Their hand-hewn carbon-steel blades are suited to ultraspecific tasks such as cutting soba noodles or slicing tuna. When the thirst hits me, I drop by Tsunoki Sake (81/75/221-2441), where eighth-generation sake merchant Teruo Fujii facilitates collaborations between rice farmers and sake brewers that culminate in unique flavor profiles such as creamy apple with hints of malt. Then I join the line at Kon-Na Monja (81/75/255-3231) for airy soy milk donuts eaten fresh from the fryer. For a more substantial bite, my choice is Iyomata (81/75/221-1405), run by a 20th generation vendor, who transforms fresh fish from the market into platters of beautifully arranged sushi, sashimi, and other delicacies. Afterward, I linger over the eye candy at Kanematsu (81/75/221-0088), a shop that exhibits premium produce the way Neil Lane displays diamonds: Outrageously plump wasabi roots recline in a lavish running-water bath, while pricey white strawberries luxuriate in custom jewel boxes. After perusing the bottom floor of the Daimaru department store (81/75/211-8111), where the food emporium is packed with soy sauces, endless platters of vegetable tempura, and, best of all, an entire mushroom department, I end my visit at nearby Miki Keiran (81/75/221-1585). Their delectable rolled egg-and-dashi omelettes are made by chefs who theatrically toss them high in their pans in a show of true culinary theater.

Nishiki Market
Nishikikōji-dōri, between Teramachi & Takakura, Kyoto

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