Stalls, samples, skewers, and specialities: Kyoto‘s Nishiki Market (or Nishiki Ichiba in Japanese) is a treasure trove of delicious treats, hearty produce, history, and, uh, even a Snoopy Cafe.
Nishiki Market: The basics
Step off Shijō Street in Kyoto’s downtown Nakagyō district and into a thriving food market, one filled with locals, visitors, and everyone in between — from grandmothers buying pickles to toddlers chewing on skewered octopus heads. There’s something charming about this place, and plenty to explore. And it’s been here, in one form or another, since around 1615 (and perhaps even earlier).
With over 100 stalls and shops lining the covered, narrow street, Nishiki Market is basically Kyoto’s kitchen. It offers a real mixture of fresh produce and preserved treats — perfect for a snack break during a busy day of sightseeing.
Shop assistants call for your attention and the passing scents draw you towards them. Almost all of the produce here is locally grown and usually by those selling it. Meanwhile, the growing attention the market has been receiving lately means that traditional, family-run shops now stand side by side with newer stores aimed at tourists. Many of the latter sell Kyoto-based speciality items in an effort to fit in.
In addition to prepared food and snacks, you can find plenty of kitchen-related things at the market, including tableware, knives, and even personalized chopsticks. Which means you can stock your kitchen as well as your fridge.
Pro tip: If you want a really authentic experience at Nishiki Market, book a breakfast tour with a local guide.
When is the best time to visit?
The market keeps regular hours: it’s up and running by 10 a.m. and closed by 6 p.m. The best time to visit, of course, is when you’re hungry.
What to eat in Nishiki Market
One of the best ways to explore the market is by taste — and there’s certainly plenty of opportunity to do so. There are some snacks you might recognize, while others might be totally new to you. Either way, there’s enough here for a feast. Although Japan traditionally looks down on eating in the street, there are exceptions (and this is one of them). Some shops also have small seating areas where you can take a break.
Spoiled for choice? Here’s some of the best food to try at Nishiki Market.
A small baby octopus with a quail’s egg inside its head. This little skewered treat is candied, making it a combination of salty and sweet.
Mochi in many forms
Mochi is a sweet you’ll have seen across Japan at supermarkets and street stalls. The sticky rice cake that is mochi comes in many forms, all of which should be tried.
Much like tofu, if you’ve had one type of mochi you didn’t like, don’t let it put you off. Sweet, soft mochi dusted with kinako powder (toasted soybean flour) has a peanut-like flavor, whereas the chewy dango (mochi balls on a stick) are often dipped in a sweet/salty soy-sauce glaze. If it’s pink and in a leaf, you’re looking at sakura mochi and if it’s white, it’s kashiwa mochi, filled with red bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf (don’t eat the leaf). Try one, try all, and find your favorite.
Goma dango (sesame dumplings)
Small, chewy, sesame seed-covered mochi balls in an assortment of flavors, from sweet to savory (and with cheese options, too). They’re originally from China, where they’re called jiānduī. Black sesame is especially delicious, but pick and choose, they’re all well worth a try!
Satsuma age (fish cakes)
Fish cakes are a traditional snack here in Japan and across Asia. They’re made from fish paste mixed with flour, then deep fried. You can try a variety of styles and fillings, from cheese to mochi, and get a feel for your favorite.
Fresh grapefruit juice
After all this food — and especially in summer — you’ll need a drink. This is where freshly pulped fruit juice comes in, and beats out anything you could get from a vending machine. At one of the small stalls near Nishiki Shrine, you’ll see a mountain of grapefruits — have one pulped, juiced, and served with a straw as is!
Not Japanese, true, but delicious nonetheless. You can try a few freshly made dumplings to fill you up, with traditional meat fillings. Just a warning: many contain pork, so if that’s off the table for you, do check in advance.
Senbei are rice crackers with different seasonings and always delicious. You can choose from soy sauce or a sweet plum sugar, miso or plain salt. Made for street-eating, nothing beats a freshly made senbei.
Foods to take home from Nishiki Market
If you’re living in Japan, staying somewhere with a kitchen, or have gifts you need to buy, there are some amazing foods here to take away with you. Or honestly just take them to the nearest bench and try them for yourself — they’re that worth it.
The market can be a bit intimidating, if you aren’t sure what everything is, or how to eat it. So here is a mini guide to what things are, and what to do with them.
Tsukemono (pickled vegetables)
A side dish with centuries of history in Japan, pickled vegetables are sold from barrels and trays, still sitting in the brines and rice brans in which they were pickled. With strong flavors and bright colors, they are often very decorative and add a nice sharpness to a meal.
There are two kinds of tsukemono: a short, one-night pickling and a longer one, with the pickling process using miso, salt, soy sauce, or rice bran. Some of the most famous types are turnip (senmaizuke), turnip leaf with red perilla (suguki), and (among other ingredients) eggplant and cucumber (shibazuke).
Kyoto is the home of tofu, which often appears in kaiseki (haute cuisine) meals and as a main feature of shōjin ryōri (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine).
Made from soybeans, tofu has many forms. At Nishiki Market, you can see trays of fresh tofu, which can be eaten as is or taken home for dinner, as well as cooked snack versions too! Try the thin, fried sheets of age-tofu or the thicker atsu-age tofu. Alternatively, there’s the softer oboro-tofu or grilled yaki-tofu — all have their own charms.
Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette)
Made by rolling layers of cooked egg together to form a hefty-looking block, tamagoyaki should be fluffy and a little sweet thanks to the mirin used in the cooking.
Tamagoyaki is not necessarily a Kyoto speciality, but Kyoto tamagoyaki does have it’s own distinctive, lighter taste and soft texture. It makes a great snack or side dish and is ready to eat as is.
Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables)
Kyo-yasai are Kyoto’s heirloom vegetables — ‘kyo’ refers to Kyoto and ‘yasai’ means vegetable — and they are revered. There are 41 official Kyo-yasai, and they’re the OG Kyoto cuisine. With unusual shapes, bright colors, and hearty flavors, these veggies are a real speciality. Cultivated since the Edo period, they are highly prized; considered to have more minerals, vitamins, and fiber than other vegetables; and may have noticeable differences to what you’re used to.
For example, Kamo eggplants (a kind of Kyo-yasai) are deep purple and round, and especially delicious when grilled. Kyoto’s heirloom takenoko, meanwhile, is a hand-farmed, sweet-tasting bamboo, and its fresh shoots can be eaten uncooked and dipped in a vinegar-miso sauce.
Wagashi (Japanese sweets)
Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets, typically made of mochi and anko (sweet red bean paste) and absolutely gorgeous. They’re served with tea and play a part in the tea ceremony, which is why they’re designed to represent the seasons or elements of nature.
Kyoto being the heart of Japanese tea culture, there is nowhere better to try wagashi. And at Nishiki Market you can try individual sweets or buy some beautiful selections as gifts to take home.
You will no doubt see mountains of tiny dried fish with scoops beside them, and these are some of the more pungent offerings of Nishiki Market. You can eat the fish as snacks, or use them for broth or toppings.
A couple of varieties to look out for:
Niboshi: Dried young sardines. These are either eaten as snacks or toppings, or used to make soup stocks. You can also see them during New Year’s, when they make an appearance in o-sechi ryōri, candied in soy sauce and sugar to make tazukuri, a dish that symbolizes a good harvest.
Sakura ebi: Small, pink dried shrimp. These little creatures are named after the pink cherry blossoms that are so loved in Japan. They offer a sweet, umami flavor and are used in a wide variety of dishes.
There are of course fresh seafood stalls too — perfect if you’re staying in an AirBnB or a hostel with a shared kitchen. Ask the staff for recomendations if you’re not sure. Just say “osusume-wa, na desu ka?” — though who knows what you’ll wind up with!
Furikake (rice toppings)
A sprinkling of furikake on a bowl of rice brings the meal to life. Made with a mixture of dried seaweed, sugar, salt, chili, sesame seeds, dried fish, dried miso, and dried fish flakes (among a huge variety of other options), furikake makes for a great souvenir or treat to take home.
There are a few different sellers here and they all let you try samples — so get stuck in, especially if you aren’t familiar with the tastes. The packages are often nicely designed and flat, which is super for those short on space! It’s also a brilliant idea if you’re on a tight budget and foresee many a meal of rice in your future.
Souvenirs from Nishiki Market
If you’ve filled up on food items and are looking for some longer-lasting gifts to take home, Nishiki Market is also a one-stop-shop for all the things you need to chop, serve, and eat with!
The family were originally swordsmiths to royalty, but with a decline in the need for swords they refocused their skills on kitchen knives. And now they produce some of the best in the country. That craftsmanship doesn’t come cheap; but if you’re after something special, this may be the place for you. With speciality knives and more all-round models, you can select just the blade you need — and have your initials engraved on it if you like. If properly cared for, these knives can last for generations.
One of the first places to head to for engraved chopsticks is Ichihara Heibei Shōten, a specialist store with hundreds of different types of chopsticks. From very affordable to positively luxurious, the options are arranged by wood-type, use, and style. Seasonal themes, characters, and special patterns adorn the chopsticks, all of which you can have engraved.
Pro tip: Read about other Japanese souvenir ideas.
Restaurants in and around Nishiki Market
If all the street food from the stalls and noodle shops isn’t enough, then some of the nearby restaurants might fill you up instead (and offer a spot to rest your weary feet).
If gyoza sound good, Tiger Gyoza has a Showa-style branch nearby. They have 12 types of Gyoza to choose from, including the unusual speciality of banana gyoza, which is 15cm long! They also offer affordable lunch sets with more substantial dishes like spicy tantanmen ramen if you’re particularly hungry.
The Snoopy Cafe: Snoopy Cha-Ya
With a shop on the ground floor and a cafe upstairs, the Snoopy Cha-ya is a surprisingly contemporary spot to see while you wander through Nishiki Market. With a nod to traditional styles and plenty of real food and sweets to try, it’s also (un)surprisingly busy. The cafe serves up savory dishes like pasta as well as cakes and parfaits (plenty of seasonal variations of course), all adorned with cute Snoopy elements. While prices may be on the high side (and servings on the small side), you’re not really there for the food — so enjoy the cuteness and take plenty of pictures.
Nishiki Warai Kyoto
If you love okonomiyaki, then Nishiki Warai is the place to head if the sights and smells of the market have made your stomach rumble. A staple of nearby Osaka, okonomiyaki means “what you like, grilled” and is a cabbage-based pancake that tastes way better than it sounds. Another popular okonomiyaki spot is Donguri and you’ll find a branch between the market and Kawaramachi Station.
Vegetarian and vegan options
For vegetarians, try nearby Hale, a spot with traditional vegetarian and vegan dishes that feature tofu (or tofu byproducts like yuba and okara). There’s also a branch of vegan Tokyo favorite Ain Soph Journey, which has a light menu with burgers, desserts, and coffees — all plant based and delicious.
When you wander out of Nishiki Market, you’ll spot a wall of lanterns belonging to the beautiful shrine, Nishiki Tenman-gū. Having been moved a few times during its life, this Shintō shrine was originally built over a thousand years ago.
It enshrines the god of learning, making it a popular place to pray for luck in studying. The water here is believed to be of especially high quality — another reason many visit. Keep an eye out for the small, plum-shaped amulets hanging from trees. You can buy one for ¥500 and write a wish to place inside, and then add it to the tree with the others.
Hotels near Nishiki Market
If you’re looking to stay nearby (it’s actually a great, central location), there are plenty of hotels and hostels near Nishiki Market from which to choose.
Minimal capsule hotel: Nine Hours Kyoto
A familiar option for the budget traveler who likes a little more privacy, trendy chain Nine Hours offers modern capsules for decent prices. You get your own small cabin, a shared bathroom, and free wi-fi — just not much headroom.
Modern capsule hotel: The Millenials Kyoto
A modern take on the capsule hotel, The Millenials offers adjoining pods, personal projectors, and mixed double-pods. There’s also a lounge for a social, hostel-like atmosphere — it’s a great mix and affordable to boot.
Smart hotel: Nest Kyoto Shijō Karasuma
Smart and newly finished, Nest Hotel is fast becoming one of the most popular options in Kyoto, thanks to its good prices and great location. Only 10 minutes from the market, the hotel has rooms starting at just under ¥5,000 and is simple but smart.
Getting to Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market is easy to get to however you prefer to travel. Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyū line provides the closest train access, while the nearest subway station is Shijō (on the Karasuma line).
For bus travelers, the closest bus stop to the market is either Shijō-Kawaramachi or Shijo-Takakura (both on the busy Shijō-dori shopping street). To get from Kyoto Station to Nishiki Market, you can catch bus no. 4, 5, 73, 205, 17 or 26 (among others), or take the subway.
If you’ve arrived for an early dinner and are heading to spot some geisha, it’s just a short walk from Nishiki Market to Gion across the river along Shijō-dōri.
Nishiki Market FAQs
Is Nishiki Market a night market?
No, Nishiki Market is only open during the day. Unfortunately there aren’t any real night markets in Kyoto, but why not wander through Gion or check for festivals happening while you’re in town instead?
What time does Nishiki Market open?
While each stall or shop has its own opening hours, most open at 10 a.m.
What time does Nishiki Market close?
Nishiki Market closes at about 6 p.m., though again each stall or shop has its own hours. We suggest you try to head there earlier if possible.
Is Nishiki Market open everyday?
While some shops are open on Sundays, a fair few will take Sunday (and/or Wednesday) off, so if you can visit on another day it might be better. If Sunday is your only chance we say still go — just imagine a livelier atmosphere while you wander the shops!
Is Nishiki Market the same as Kyoto Fish Market?
No. While there are some spots selling fresh fish, the main fish market is near Tambaguchi Station (and Kyoto Station). At the Kyoto Fish Market, wholesalers run on busy schedules starting with auctions from 5 a.m. And if it’s the famous Tokyo fish market you’re after, you’ll want to read our Toyosu Market guide.
How to get to Nishiki Market from Kyoto Station
Nishiki Market is in Nakagyō ward, about a half-hour’s walk from Kyoto Station, but there are plenty of buses or trains you can catch instead. The Karasuma subway line will take you from Kyoto Station to Shijō Station (two stops, three minutes) and from there it is a few minutes’ walk to the market.
There are buses from the station, too. These have a flat fare of ¥230, which is a little more than the subway; however, if you have a day pass it’s a great first destination. Hop on bus no. 4, 5, 73, 205, 17 or 26 (among others) to reach the market. There are plenty of signs at the bus stops and helpful guides, too.
How to get from Nishiki Market to Kiyomizudera Temple
If Kiyomizudera is next on your schedule, then you can choose a leisurely walk through the Gion and Higashiyama areas. It takes about 40 minutes direct, but give yourself plenty of time for seeing the sights — you can visit Yasaka Shrine, Kōdai-ji Temple, and Ninenzaka, and also enjoy the cafes and shops along the way. Check out our guide to the east side of Kyoto for ideas on what to see. If you’re short on time, you can catch a bus; there are plenty running from the Shijō-Kawaramachi stop (on the crossroad by Kawaramachi Station).
What is there to do near Nishiki Market?
Nishiki Market is very central and close to many of Kyoto’s popular attractions. It runs parallel to the popular Shijō-dōri shopping street, and there are plenty of interesting vintage shops and alleys surrounding it.
To the north is Nijō Castle and the Imperial Palace, as well as the Manga Museum. To the east is the famous restaurant alley Pontochō and the Gion disrict (perfect for spotting geisha). If you head south, you’ll find Kyoto Tower and the temple, Higashi Hongan-ji. You can walk to these or take the bus, depending on your schedule (and tired feet).
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in August, 2017. Last updated in July 2022.