Kyoto’s Nishiki Market and Daimaru Depachicka (Food Hall)

by wired2theworld on June 21, 2011

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Kyoto’s Nishiki Market Street

If you’re interested in food, when researching Kyoto, it’s almost impossible not to come across references to Nishiki street. This market is often referred to as an “alley” but really, it’s quite clean and comfortable because it’s located one of the covered arcade streets running parallel to Shijo St between Teramachi St and Takakura St. 

While the surrounding streets are also covered arcades (which is great in inclement weather like we had), those streets are bursting with clothing shops, souvenir stands and restaurants. Nishiki is all about the food; it’s filled with market stalls catering to every kind of Japanese specialty imaginable, many of them unique to Kyoto. There are all manner and variety of pickled vegetables, fresh tofu and yuba (tofu skin), fish mongers and butchers. There are a couple of well known knife shops here though our budget prohibited any purchase.

Nishiki Market in Kyoto

Nishiki Market in Kyoto

Nishiki Market in Kyoto

Nishiki Market in Kyoto

If you visit, go when hungry. I wish I’d realized this, but we’re full from the big breakfast at the Westin and thus do not try any of the goodies on offer. There are fried things on sticks (always a good thing if you ask me), sashimi on a stick, samples of dozens of different pickled vegetables, and even sweets to try.

Nishiki Market in Kyoto

Below is a photo of a machine making bonito flakes like the ones which covered our eggplant dish the night before. I am still kicking myself for not buying a package to bring home.

Nishiki Market in Kyoto

Daimaru Depachicka (Food Hall)

At the end of Nishiki street we hit Takakura street and turn left, intending to make our way to a subway stop and then to Nijo Castle. Along the way we pass Daimaru Department Store and duck inside to find a restroom. Suddenly we are in another wonderland of food, not exactly unique to Japan, but certainly more common here than in the US; the department store food hall.

In Japan this is called a depachika, and according to the book Food Sake Tokyothe word comes from “the words for department store (depa-to) and basement (chika).” This is no mall food court, oh no. Imagine a high end grocery store surrounded by food counters with every possible prepared and raw food, packaged in impossibly beautiful presentations.

Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Eggplant in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Fruit & Vegetables in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Fruit & Vegetables in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

There is a grocery store section filled with imported foods, wines, cheeses, and snacks of all kinds. There’s a butcher where you can buy thinly sliced beef, ready for shabu-shabu. Of course there’s a bakery filled with French pastries, many different kinds of bento boxes, sushi and sashimi, fried items, and beautiful fresh salads. Anything you might want. This is also where we found the $150 melon, perfect, fragrant strawberries and individually wrapped mangos .

What we do not see here are places to sit and eat the food one buys at the counters. There are a couple of places selling hot food with a few tables, but from what I understand it’s expected that all the food is takeaway to be eaten at home. I’ve also read that, except for picnics in the park, eating on the street and out in public is just not done.

Would you pay $150 for the perfect melon? It DID smell really good...

Meat Counter in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Meat and prepared foods in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Meat and prepared foods in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

In the end, I am struck dumb with awe and overwhelmed by choice.  There are samples galore and we try gyoza, and flavored vinegars and donuts. Sigh, can I just move in here for a few weeks? We wander for almost an hour and in the end, we choose not to buy our lunch here because we don’t want to carry it around with us at the castle and we don’t know if we’ll be able to eat inside the castle grounds. This is a big mistake and I will later have (many) pangs of regret (and hunger).

Flavored Vinegars in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Eel in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

One of my favorites; Eel in Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Like food and travel? Want more? Make sure you check out the Wanderfood Wednesdays round up.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cheri Lucas June 21, 2011 at 7:04 am

A $150 melon?! With a pretty pink bow…

I visited Kyoto five years ago but the city is a blur. I wish I remembered it clearly, and I don’t recall this market. I do remember one of my breakfasts in my ryokan — *that* was a feast.

I would love to return.

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2 wired2theworld June 21, 2011 at 7:28 am

Cheri- I would have loved to stay in a ryokan, but time and budget did not allow. I would go back in a heartbeat and for sure another trip is in our future.

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3 Myra June 21, 2011 at 8:07 am

I’m in no way a “foodie”, but I LOVE visiting food markets when I travel. Food is an intrinsic part of a culture; and I want to see what people eat, how it’s presented, and revel in how different it is from what I normally find at home. Love these pictures, especially the top one. What kind of vegetable is that? Is in water?

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4 wired2theworld June 21, 2011 at 8:49 am

Myra- I think it’s some sort of cabbage (like Napa cabbage) and it’s in a pickling liquid. And yes, I agree, see what a culture eats and you can learn a lot about it.

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5 lucy June 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

Reminder to Self: Do not open w2w’s posts when hungry and nothing but office candy is at hand….
Great photos!

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6 Dave from The Longest Way Home June 21, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Is it me or does a Japanese supermarket look a lot like a Korean one? I don’t know too much about this side of Asia. Not a fish fan either. But I do enjoy seeing you inside peeks in to everyday Japanese life, and food 🙂

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7 wired2theworld June 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm

I don’t know, I’ve never been to Korea, so I can’t compare. There so much more there than fish, and I guarantee you’d be able to find something you like in the Food Hall!

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8 Marcy June 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

More fantastic photos…wow, the markets lool incredible! And, that melon looks so darn pretty! 🙂

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