Thursday, January 5, 2017

[Japan 2016] Kyoto: Nishiki Market + Teramachi & Shinkyogoku Shopping Streets

Photo: Elin Chow

Leaving Fushimi Inari Taisha, we headed off to the next destination of the day - Nishiki Market.

Nishiki Market is located a short walk away from Shijo Station on the Karasuma Subway Line along Shijo Street. Karasuma Subway Line is one of the two subway lines operated by Kyoto Municipal Subway. The Shijo Station is the second station from Kyoto Station. The one way fare from Kyoto Station to Shijo Station is 210 Yen. However, please note that the JR Pass does not cover the Kyoto Municipal Subway.

There is a common saying that, "if you have not been to Nishiki Market, it is almost like you have not been to Kyoto at all". Established more than 400 years ago, Nishiki Market is one of the oldest and best-loved food markets in Japan.

Nishiki Market is a fully covered narrow street spanning five blocks, packed with over hundred of shops and restaurants. The entire street is 400-metres long and runs between Teramachi street and Takakura street. Most of the shops in Nishiki Market are family-owned businesses, operated by the same family over generations.

Known as Kyoto's Kitchen, Nishiki Market specializes in all things food related - from fresh seafood to knives and cookwares. Lining on both sides of the narrow street are stalls selling vegetables, spices, tofu, fresh seafood, fragrant tea and handmade kitchenwares. It is a great place to find seasonal food and Kyoto's local specialties like Japanese sweets, pickles and dried seafood.

Most of the shops specialize in a particular type of food and often offer free samples without expecting you to buy anything. Almost everything sold in the market is locally produced or procured and are of best quality, so do expect to pay a slightly higher price than in supermarkets.

Walking down the narrow street, you will find plenty of food stalls selling takeaway food like skewers of cooked seafood or meat, rice crackers and many other traditional Japanese street food which you can just grab and go. Nishiki Market is heaven for foodies. It is certainly the best place to sample and enjoy all culinary delights of Kyoto.

Nishiki Market is open almost everyday, from 9.00 am to 6.30 pm. However, some shops are closed on either Wednesday or Sunday. We arrived at around 4 pm on a Sunday afternoon and were surprised at how crowded it was. Nishiki Market is popular with both locals and international tourists, though you will probably see more Japanese than foreigners.

The crowds made it difficult for us to enjoy things at a leisurely pace. People with mobility problems will also find the crowds extremely challenging. The street is too narrow and crowded to maneuver a wheelchair or baby stroller. I suggest visiting early on a weekday morning if you want to avoid the massive crowds.

Most of the shop owners does not speak fluent English, but they were generally very friendly and welcoming. Unlike most other traditional markets in Asia, Nishiki Market is also very clean and well-organized, just like everything in Japan.

Feeling hungry, we randomly walked into Genzou Nishiki to grab some dinner. The restaurant serves Japanese food and offers an English menu (as well as Japanese) complete with pictures.

Hot Tempura Noodles

Price: 1,080 Yen

Fried Chinese Noodles with Sliced Pork and Baby Squids

Price: 702 Yen

My husband ordered Hot Tempura Noodles while I ordered Fried Chinese Noodles with Sliced Pork and Baby Squids. Both were very delicious, value for money with decent serving size.

Price: 350 Yen

After dinner, I bought a Matcha soft serve from one of the food stall to try. I was told that Matcha soft serve is a must-eat in Kyoto. You can buy Matcha soft serve almost anywhere in Kyoto. True enough, it does not disappoint. The soft serve taste a lot like Matcha, with a lingering tinge of bitterness. It is very creamy, smooth and most importantly, not too sweet.

The end of Nishiki Market opens to Teramachi-Dori. Teramachi-Dori means Temple Town Street in English and the reason for this street name is simply due to high concentration of temples found along the Eastern side of this street.

Sitting at the intersection of Nishiki Market and Teramachi street is the famous Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine. Dedicated to the Shinto God of Learning, Sugawara-no Michizane, people visit the shrine to pray for good luck for their studies.

On Teramachi street, you will find plenty of shops catered to temple-goers and tourists alike, selling a variety of religious goods like Buddhist prayer beads, Buddhist sculptures, memorial tablets, books, incense and so on.

In addition to that, you will also find a wide range of fashion shops, bookstores, art galleries, souvenirs shops, pharmacies and tea shops.

I am always a big fan of baked cheese tarts, so I was really excited when I chanced upon the famous BAKE Cheese Tarts from Sapporo, Hokkaido while we were strolling down Teramachi street. I quickly went into the store and bought two cheese tarts to try. As BAKE believes that freshly baked cheese tarts taste the best, all their cheese tarts are baked on the spot and sold freshly out from the oven.

Price: 216 Yen

Freshly out of the oven, the baked cheese tart has a very crunchy and fluffy crust with cheesy warm soft filling. The cheese is very smooth and creamy, but not overpowering. So sinfully delicious!

Somewhere along the street, we also chanced upon Kani Doraku, a famous Japanese restaurant chain specializing in high quality crabs and other seafood dishes. The giant mechanical orange crab that moves above the entrance is the iconic symbol of the restaurant.  This restaurant is a heaven for crab lovers, but do expect to pay a hefty price.

Running parallel to Teramachi shopping street is Shinkyogoku shopping street. Both the streets are connected by several side streets so they make up a single complex, which form the heart of Kyoto's main shopping district. Together, they offer the best shopping experience in Kyoto.

Shinkyogoku Street is a much newer street than Teramachi Street and is lined with a wide range of fashion shops, souvenir shops, game arcades, restaurants and a cinema. The street of Shinkyogoku is much narrower and crowded than Teramachi as it tends to attract the younger crowds and tourists.

On Shinkyogoku Street, you could find almost anything. This is definitely one of the best place in Kyoto to get some gifts souvenirs for yourself or your family and friends back home.

In between shops, you will find game arcades and dozens of different claws machines.

Movix is said to be the biggest cinema in Kyoto, boasting 12 screens and 2,500 plus seating.

There is a very large Daiso 100 Yen shop on Teramachi street, so we decided to drop in and take a look. The shop is very clean, well organized and stocked. However, we were surprised that the 100 Yen price does not include the 8% consumption tax. After adding in tax, each item is actually 108 Yen instead of 100 Yen.

100 Yen shops are very popular with locals and tourists because you can buy almost everything at an affordable price! From drinks, snacks, kitchenwares, beauty products, and stationeries to craft products and daily necessities. We picked up a few items from Daiso before heading back to our Airbnb apartment to rest for the night. If you are interested to know what we bought from Daiso, please read my "Huge Beauty + Snacks Haul" post.

Even though it was only 6 pm, the sky was totally dark already. Walking out of Kyoto Station, we were excited to see the Kyoto Tower standing brightly in the dark sky.

Price: 113 Yen | 195 Yen

We went to Family Mart beside Kyoto Station to get some drinks before heading back to our Airbnb apartment. Whenever we travel overseas, we will always visit convenience stores. We found it really interesting to visit and explore convenience stores in a foreign country. There are so many things to look at and try and it is always fascinating to see unfamiliar food and drink items in the stores.

We bought apple juice and creamy latte from the Family Mart. Even though I am not a big fan of coffee, I love the creamy latte very much. It was very rich and creamy but not too overpowering.

Price: 129 Yen

My husband is a big fan of Ito En brand bottled green tea and everyday, he will buy bottles of these from either a convenience store or vending machine. I agree that this taste really good too. It is not too sweet or bitter with a very nice flavour and aroma.

We turned in early that night, excited what is going to happen the next day. Japan was everything we expected it to be and more. We could not wait to explore more of Kyoto!

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 7 days in Japan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on my 7 days adventures in Japan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

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