Nicknamed Kyoto's Kitchen, Nishiki Market has been in business for about 400 years old. Along this narrow lane that spans 5 blocks is where Kyoto food specialties and snacks can be found. This place is not just meant for tourists; locals shop here too and the market is especially busy on days leading up to the New Year as the Japanese complete their last minute shopping to prepare for the holiday feast. Nishiki Market sets an example of how one can learn about a culture through their food.
Some standout/popular shops include, but are not limited to:
Specializes in tsukemono (Japanese pickles) and the largest pickle shop in the market. The pickles are displayed on large barrels and among the myriad of pickle varieties are eggplant, mustard green, radish, lotus root, and cucumber. Uchida pickles the vegetables using several methods including using nuka (rice bran), salt, shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), or kombu (kelp). Vegetables that are pickled in nuka can be seen buried in rice bran in the barrel.
A pretty selection of ready-to-eat seafood items with the most popular being the komochi ika (squid head stuffed with its own eggs).
A mochi shop that makes their rice cakes fresh several times a day. The mochi is made near the entrance of the shop so shoppers can catch a glimpse of the staff using a large wooden hammer to pound the mochi. Mochitsukiya has a sit-down restaurant at the back where the menu consists of different preparations of mochi such as grilled savory mochi with udon noodle soup, bubuzuke (hot tea poured over rice), and mochi with matcha (green tea) ice-cream for dessert.
The absolute best tonyu (soy milk doughtnuts) are made here. Yes, really. Having just come from a full lunch at Mochitsukiya (see above), we have no difficulty in finishing up the bag of 10-piece mini doughnuts especially when they are fresh and hot, soft and fluffy. Step out of the narrow lane of Nishiki Market, walk over to the side of the shop, and buy the freshly made ones that are just coming out of the fryer instead of the doughnuts that are already packed and on display at the front.
Note: Eating and walking at the same time are not considered polite in Japanese etiquette. If you buy something to eat or munch, stand aside or outside the shop and finish your food before continuing your walk. Some shops may have a small table with a couple of chairs that you can use.