by Yukari Pratt
Here's a quick tour of some of the more interesting shops in Kyoto's historical Nishiki Market. If you're visiting the market, download the accompanying map before you go.
1. The Aritsugu knife shop dates back to 1560, and the hand-crafted knives here are truly works of art. Beyond knives, you may be interested in picking up a new grater or one of Aritsugu's delicate strainers.
2. If you cook at home, consider stocking your spice rack at Dintora. The goodies here include essential Japanese spices like shichimi, dried yuzu, sansho powder and yuzu kosho.
4. Unlike ordinary doughnuts, the ones at Konnyamonja are made with soy milk; you'll also find soy-milk soft ice-cream cones - a nice summertime cooler. And everything here is supposed to be good for you,, so these are guilt-free treats! The shop also has a small sitting room if you need a break.
5. Fu, a staple in the Buddhist vegetarian diet, is made from pure wheat gluten and is produced in long cylinders that come in pretty pastel colors. Fuka offers the traditional fu found in sukiyaki as well as modern versions like bacon, cheese and basilico.
6. You'll know you've arrived at Takakuraya when the tangy smell of Kyoto pickles permeates the air. A feast for the eyes, the shopfront is filled with vibrant red French radishes, diminuitive Japanese eggplants, and the local specialty - delicate, almost paper-thin white Japanese senmaizuke radishes. Takakuraya is just one of the many pickle shops waiting to be discovered in the arcade.
7. Chinami offers excellent-quality kombu for making dashi at home, and you'll also find intensely flavored kombu tsukudani, kombu which has been steeped in a sweet soy sauce. Another local specialty is chirimenjako - tiny sardines that have been par-boiled and then dried - and in Kyoto they're often sprinkled with fiery sansho pepper.
8. If you're curious to try some of the local sweets, Kitao has a small sitting room in the back. You can grind your own dried soybeans to make kinako powder as a topping for traditional wagashi sweets such as warabi mochi (made from powder from the bracken plant) and mochi dango (a glutinous sweet rice that has been pounded smooth and then shaped into small balls and set three to a skewer).
9. Among Kyoto's local specialties is gossamery yuba - the fragile skin that is gently gathered from soy milk that has been heated. Fresh yuba is creamy, and best enjoyed on its own with nothing more than wasabi and soy sauce. Yubakichi offers both fresh and dried yuba.
10. One product that may seem especially familiar to foreign visitors is the Japanese egg omelette. If you can catch the staff at Miki Keiran while they're in production, you can observe the process of making the fluffy, savory dashimaki tamago. The plain one is a delight, but for a real treat try the "umaki" - it looks like a maki sushi made of eggs with unagi in the middle.
Nishiki market is in central Kyoto, one block north of Shijo Street west of Gion and the Kamogawa River. The closest subway station is Karasuma. If you come by bus, get off at Shijo-karasuma, Shijo-takakura, or Shijo-kawaramachi.
On the web:
Nishi Market: http://www.kyoto-nishiki.or.jp/
1. Aritsugu: http://www.aritsugu.com/
2. Dintora: http://www4.osk.3web.ne.jp/~dintora/main.html
4. Konnyamonja: http://www.kyotofu.co.jp/shop/monja/
6. Takakuraya: http://www.takakuraya.jp/
7. Chinami: http://www.joho-kyoto.or.jp/~nishiki/omiseyasan/ chinami/chinami.html
8. Kitao: http://www.kitaoshoji.co.jp/
9. Yubakichi: http://www.joho-kyoto.or.jp/~nishiki/ omiseyasan/yubakichi/yubakichi.html
10. Miki Keiran: http://www.kyoto-wel.com/shop/S81174/
Copyright (c) 2005 Yukari Pratt. Photos copyright (c) 2005 Yukari Pratt