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Kyoto, Japan

Nishiki Market

This 700-year-old street food market features baby octopus and soy donuts. 

Nishiki Market well merits its nickname as “Kyoto’s Kitchen.” It first opened in 1310 as a simple fish market, and has expanded over the centuries to become the best spot for seafood, produce, and local street food in the city.

Walking down the packed narrow alleyway your senses are drawn in a hundred different directions. The entire market is just five blocks long, but over 150 stalls, some barely big enough for a chef to stand in, make it feel much bigger. There are traditional delicacies like freshly pounded mochi, Japanese pickles, sweet red beans prepared in a multitude of ways, and of course, Kyoto’s famous tofu.

Some stalls will offer free samples, while the more expensive items may cost a few yen.  Just about everything at Nikishi Market will reward an adventurous palate. Baby octopus with a boiled quail egg in its brain cavity, soy donuts, barbecued quail, grilled squid, candied kumquats, and pickled gourds are all for sale, as well as more traditional fare like sushi, tofu, and tea.

A few stalls sell non-comestibles as well. The inexplicably various shoe vendors, and Aritsugu, one of Japan’s finest knife-making shops, has had a stall here since the year 1510.

Know Before You Go

Bring cash, be prepared for large crowds, and come with an empty stomach.