Welcome to Kyoto, a town of 1.5 million inhabitants, a place beloved not for nightlife but its many culinary delicacies. It is after all, where Japanese cuisine was born or perfected. A must visit while visiting Kyoto is the 400 year-old, narrow, five block long shopping street, Nishiki Market. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, Nishiki started as a wholesale fish district around 1310, and many of its stalls have been managed by the same family for generations. 126 vendors display amazingly fresh fish on their bed of ice, a kaleidoscope of pickled vegetables, offer glowing and shiny snacks to buy and more importantly, show an incredible care in what might only seem as an ordinary and humble food item. Having the opportunity to witness the impressive attention to detail and sense of presentation is what makes Japan the country it is.Most shops specialize in a particular type of food, and almost everything sold at the market is locally produced and reasonably priced. You can for example find a shop that sells spices and you can even create your own Shichimi togarashi by balancing all the ingredients according to you taste (a spice mixture containing 7 ingredients). Whether we are looking at a simple bright orange carrot or a shiny lively eel, what is available at Nishiki market represent the best, the freshest of Kyoto’s culinary offerings.There are also a few small restaurants and food stands selling ready-made food. A few establishments have tables and chairs, though many consist of no more than a couple of stools and a bar. They usually specialize in one type of food, and are often attached to a store of the same specialty. It’s a great way of having an improvised lunch and of sampling some local food specialties. Grab an few skewers here and there, try whatever you find appetizing or just unusual and don’t miss out the deep fried chicken stand…no word can describe its taste and juiciness!While the first five blocks of the market is mostly dedicated to food, strolling down a bit further you can find a few cookware stores sprinkled in. The most impressive one of those is the Aritsugu knife shop. Opened in 1560, eighteen generations of the Aritsugu family have managed the store since its opening. The actual beginnings of the business was based on making swords for the ruling Shoguns. Nowadays this cooking knife shop has an incredible reputation and offers an amazing variety of quality knives that can even be personalized by engraving your name on the blade.
Food lovers beware! Nishiki Market has the reputation of being a place where you can find anything…you might have to go back home with a few extra kilos in your suitcase!
Photo: Emilie Mounsaveng