Nishiki Market – a unique experience!
Nishiki Market, Kyoto’s largest traditional food market, was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Among locals also known as “Kyoto’s pantry”; this is the place to go for the best ingredients in town. With more than one hundred stalls and shops they sell everything you can imagine: fish, seaweed, octopus, meat, vegetables, tofu, spices, sweets, and all kinds of kitchen utensils. The market is located in a long, narrow passageway with high ceilings that make it feel like you’re still outdoors. When strolling around you’ll enjoy the pleasant, authentic atmosphere. Each day, thousands of people visit Nishiki Market and although it’s always busy, it isn’t chaotic.
It’s a great place to check out fascinating food
You should definitely go to Nishiki Market to check out the often-fascinating ingredients that are used in the Japanese kitchen. To be honest, I was clueless about half of the foods that were sold, neither did I recognize most of things I ate at the market. This however, didn’t stop me from trying lots of foods. Many vendors give free samples and curious as I am, I tried most what was offered. Lots of food are prepared on the spot, which is definitely worthwhile to have a look at.
Octopus on a stick
Something that immediately catched my eye was the octopus on a stick that you’ll see many people eating. I learned it was called tako tamago and ordered it after I ensured myself that it wasn’t alive anymore.* Octopus on a stick may not be for everybody, but I really liked it! The octopus’ head is stuffed with a quail egg, something that came as a surprise for me while eating. I must admit that it sounds a bit weird, octopus on a stick with an egg stuffed in the head, but it actually tasted quite good. Unfortunately, during the rest of our trip there wasn’t another moment for me to try the octopus. If I would have known that, I had for sure eaten more of it in Kyoto.
The best time to visit
The first time Tim and I visited the market it was around five o’clock, about an hour before closing. Although many vendors were already packing up, there was still much to explore. The second time we went to the market during the afternoon, which was a better time to visit since all shops were opened at that time. Both times we went there, there were lots of people at the market without it being too crowded. I’ve read that most tourists go around lunchtime, making this the busiest time of the day. To bring home, we bought some spices like the ones at the photo below.
Watch out! Don’t choke in your octopus
* Checking whether or not the octopus is dead might sound a little weird but once I’ve seen a documentary about the different eating habits over the world, and it included among others the eating of living animals in Japan and South Korea. It was shown how an octopus was twisted on sticks and eaten while it was still alive. Personally, I think this is a cruel thing to do and I cannot imagine it to be very tasty. On top of that, the twisting must be done exactly the right way; if the octopus is able to free its tentacles it’ll be able to block your trachea or throat and may suffocate you. People actually died because of this.