September 17, 2017
by Yu Sakamoto, Tashi Nisikawa and Kazu Shibao
In recent years, the number of tourists who come from overseas has been increasing. In 2003, for example, the number of visitors was 5,211,725. However, that exceeded ten million people in 2013 and recently hit almost 20 million. Even Japanese who are not good at speaking English have struggled to help foreigners be more comfortable during their visit. Simply put: Kyoto is flooded with tourists.
There are many chances to get written information about the recommendable spots in Kyoto. However, theses spots are popular and are therefore always crowded. This can make you irritable. One of these famous spots is a 400-year-old market called Nishiki Ichiba, which shouldn’t be missed. Below is our advice on how you can enjoy Nishiki Ichiba in spite of the crowds.
Nishiki Ichiba is nicknamed Kyo no Daidokoro by the Japanese. Kyo means ‘Kyoto’ and daidokoro means ‘kitchen’. So as you can imagine, Nishiki Ichiba is the place where you can find food from all over Kyoto in one place. The market is a straight path running east and west, and is 390 meters long and only 3.25 to 5 meters wide. Nishiki Ichiba is typical of the structures of Kyoto. As mentioned previously, it has existed for more than 400 years, so it has a long history.
How to Get There
Unfortunately, Nishiki Ichiba is not located near Kyoto station, which is where most tourists usually arrive first. Although people can get to the market by both bus and subway, taking the subway is faster and easier than taking the bus.
Kyoto station has many train lines. You should take the train that is the Subway Karasuma line. Simply buy a ticket to Shijo station, which costs 210 yen. When come out of the station at ground level you should walk down Shijo street to the east and turn left at the second corner. The entrance to the market is on the right as you walk north about 100m (see photo at the top).
In Nishiki Ichiba, there are a total of about 126 stores. So when you go there, you can easily become confused. Therefore, we have put together a guide to the best shops in Nishiki Ichiba.
Raw Oyster Shop: Daiyasu
At the very beginning, when you first enter the market, you can see the shop on your right. This shop provides the fresh Oysters to customers. In the summer season, you can eat a kind of oyster called iwa kaki, and in the winter you can eat ma kaki. Iwa kaki is much bigger than ma kaki. (see the photos below). Its taste is juicy. Ma kaki is smaller than iwa kaki, but its taste is much creamier than iwa kaki. You can eat them either raw or grilled. We suggest you try eating raw oyster. The taste is amazing. If you visit Nishiki Ichiba, you should definitely go to Daiyasu.
Soybean Shop: Kyo no Omamehan
Just nearby Daiyasu, you can find a soybean store named Kyo no Omamehan. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. Your nose can lead the way, as the smell of beans will attract you. Inside, there are so many different kinds of bean snacks, as you can see in the photo. Also, you can sample every flavor of bean snacks on offer. Therefore, you can discover your favorite before making a purchase.
Also in this store, you can get some bean-flavored ice cream, which has an unusual, but pleasant taste. There are 3 flavors: black vanilla, tofu milk and black soy bean. These are limited to only 50 a day, so if you want to have some, you can’t be late. Otherwise they will be sold out. These bean-flavored ice cream prices are all 380 yen, so it’s quite reasonable.
Matcha Sweet Shop: Sawawa
After Kyo no Omameha, walk to straight to the east about 50 meters. There you will see a shop on your left that provides freshly ground matcha, or powdered green tea. The shop uses tea grown in Uji, which is a region in the south part of Kyoto. It is famous for its high quality green tea. Of all the sweets make with matcha in the shop, we suggest that you eat matcha warabimochi, which is similar to a jelly-like sweet made from bracken starch and covered in powdered green tea. The taste is mild and you can enjoyed the aroma of matcha. Of course, it goes well with freshly brewed tea.
Spice Shop: Ochanoko Saisai
After walking 1 minute more to the east, you will come upon a Kyoto-style spice shop named Ochanoko Saisai. There, you can buy the spiciest ichimi togarashi and shichimi togarashi in the world. Ichimi togarashi means ‘one flavor chili pepper, while shichimi means ‘seven flavor chili pepper’. Ichimi is made from dried red chili pepper flakes, while shichimi contains seven spices, some of which are uniquely Japanese.
Also, at the storefront you can try ichimi and shichimi togarashi rice crackers. I can tell you one thing that if you want to try this one, get a bottle of water beforehand. You’ll need it!
Click here to learn more about Shichimi.
Deep Fried Chocolate Shop: Inoue Tsukudani
Have you ever eaten deep fried chocolate before? At the bento store named Inoue Tsukudani, you can have a chocolate croquette. You might think this is gross, but once you eat it, your thinking will be changed. According to one of the shop’s workers, the chocolate is hard to melt, so you can also take it back to your hotel if you are full. In this store, there are a couple of seats, so if you want to eat comfortably, you can go inside and sit down. And if you ask politely, you can get cold or hot tea for free. Also, like in the picture below, you can leave your message on the wall. This is a great place to have a little fun time while you eat something delicious and unique.
Mochi Shop: Mochi Tsukiya
After your chocolatey visit to Inoue Tsukudani, walk straight to the east for about 2 minutes. You will then see a shop on your right, just east of Yanagibamba street. It is called Mochi Tsukiya and it is famous for mochi, or Japanese pounded rice cake. If you are hungry, you can eat high quality mocha filled with red bean paste. You can also sample mochi made with different ingredients, such as seaweed, cheese, fish eggs, pickled plum, grated white radish, and shiso (perilla) leaf. And if you feel hot, you can cool down with some kakigori, which is made with mocha and shaved ice. They have some chairs and tables, so you can take a break here. We suggest you eat kakigori. You can also order a half-size mochi with kakigoori. This shop was is so good that it was featured on a famous TV program. Don’t miss it!
Liquor Store: Tsunoki Shuho
Near the east end of the street, you can find a liquor store named Tsunoki Shuho. It is over 220 years old. In this store, there are so many unique types of Japanese sake. Even you can taste the sake which Barack Obama drank during his visit. You can also sample sake inside the shop; just make sure do not drink too much. This is good place to buy a gift for your father.
Well, that brings us to the end of our recommendations for visiting Nishiki Ichiba. Did you find anything of interest? We think it is the best way to complete your visit of Nishiki Ichiba. In addition, there are a lot of other stores in the market, so it’s a good idea to explore some of the other shops in addition to following our guide. You might discover something even better. Anyway, enjoy your Kyoto trip!