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Key Info

Nishikikoji Dori

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Free, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.5Food Scene
  • 3.5Atmosphere

For those unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine, a trip to Nishiki Market can be an overwhelming experience. This bustling, five-block-long covered market is lined with more than 100 stalls, each one hawking Japanese foods and specialty items that are hard to come by in the United States. With barely any English signage for reference, it might be difficult to determine what to buy or where to start. But just because Nishiki Market is busy and confusing doesn't mean you should avoid it. In fact, recent visitors said that's exactly why you should go, saying it's an essential food tour. Others pointed out that this is a great way to sample many different local cuisines without having to buy a whole meal.

The key here is to start small. Sample some authentic green tea or nosh on some nigiri (rice balls). After you've acclimated yourself to the flavors, you can work your way up to the unfamiliar: roe-stuffed squid, dried kelp or silky yuba (tofu-milk skin). Of course, connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine can feel free to jump right in, but Nishiki Market can also offer new eating experiences to old pros. Alongside the more traditional Japanese fare, you'll find some trendier shops like Konnamonja, which sells doughnuts and soft-serve ice cream that are both made from tofu (and reportedly delicious). One thing to note: You'll have to sit (or stand) to eat your food. Walking and eating is not permitted, according to recent visitors.

You can find Nishiki Market one block north of and parallel to Shijo Street in central Kyoto, within walking distance of the Shijo, Karasuma and Kawaramachi subway stations. Free to the public, most of the market is open every day from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., though it varies by shop (some are closed on Wednesdays or Sundays, for example).

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#1 Fushimi Inari Shrine

As far as Shinto shrines go (there are about 400 in Kyoto), this one is pretty special. Perched on a wooded hillside in southern Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is a 1,300-year-old temple dedicated to Inari, the Shinto deity of rice and sake (Japanese rice wine). The shrine complex dates back to the eighth century, but it's not the star of the show. Most visitors come for the close to 10,000 red and orange lacquered torii gates that line the 2 ½-mile-long path up Mount Inari, where the shrine sits. Sometimes in dense rows and other times more staggered, the gates are all engraved with the names of Shinto devotees who donated them.

It takes about three hours to make the trek up the mountain, and some recent visitors say that the hike is mildly strenuous, but almost all agree this is a must-see spot in Kyoto, especially for first-time visitors. Plus, travelers report that there are plenty of places to stop and rest along the way. Peer at the dozens of stone and bronze foxes that line the paths along with the gates (foxes are thought to be Inari's sacred messengers). Or stop in to one of the tea houses or restaurants situated on the path, which serve udon noodle soup and sushi. Because crowds are drawn to their picturesque beauty, Fushimi Inari's trails can get quite congested during the day. To avoid the multitudes, opt for an evening stroll up the mountain – recent visitors say the pervading quiet coupled with the fading light filtering through the trees and torii gates makes for an eerie and spiritual experience. Early morning is another optimal time to experience the shrine sans the crowds.

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