Chasing that green.
As I weave through the crowds at Nishiki, I am met with a bevy of promising smells. Plumes of smoke rise from the expertly-manned grills, aromatic ramen steams through the busy space and oh! That ain’t what mama ordered. Above all the delightful scents of sweet and savoury promise is the formidable presence of fresh seafood. It hangs in the air like a piñata crammed with evil.
But I keep my eye on the prize. I forge ahead.
My hunger, speed and resolve is akin to an ibis in want of a juicy dumpster. Or, as most of my readers are from the US of A, I move like a wise-crackin’, devil-may-cry racoon zeroing in on a fort of trash.
The market is cramped, none can deny, but it makes no matter. I walk on air. Dodging two, three, possibly four million locals and travellers, it’s the waffle-like smell woven into the fish stench which sends me speedily on my way.
Soon enough, I am seeing green. Matcha green. Stalls of ice cream, mochi and tea cakes abound. There’s even a pharmacy selling various matcha versions of classic chocolate bars. I couldn’t decide what I liked more about Japan, that their pharmacies stocked more chocolate than medicine or that they made green tea Kit Kats and Oreos.
So why do I like matcha so much? It’s not matcha in its pure powder form that I adore… I wouldn’t load my gun with that sh*t. (Another contemporary reference for my U.S. readers.) So it’s probably a combination of all the sugar used in matcha products to quell the bitterness plus its cheeky Shrek shade of green. What can I say, I’m a woman of novelty tastes.
TL;DR: Fish bad, matcha good, I’m a demon succubus. Moving on.
The trance abated. Before I came to despise the blessed Shrek tones by sicking up that same colour because of overindulgence, I branched out. Here’s what the rest of Nishiki had in store.
· Savoury delights ·
- Japanese pickles (tsukemono)
- Savoury pancakes (okonomiyaki)
- Matsutake mushrooms
- Rice crackers (senbei)
- Fresh tofu
- Bamboo shoots (takenoko)
- Tofu skins (yuba)
- Rice balls (onigiri – say it fast and angry. Dare ya.)
· For your sweet tooth ·
- Rock candy (konpeito)
- Roasted chestnuts (tenshin amaguri)
- Sesame sweet potatoes (daigaku imo)
- Black sesame coated peanuts
- Colourful rice, bean and fruit sweets (wagashi)
- Tofu doughnuts
- Rum-infused grapefruit
- Grilled red-bean filled mochi
- Sugared kumquats (kinkan kanro-ni)
- Breaded, deep-fried chocolate balls
- Sesame ice cream (kurogoma aisukurimu)
· Stores with the goods ·
- Ichihara Heibei Shoten – engraved chopsticks, artisanal mugs and bowls
- Aritsugu – knives, souvenirs, fake food keychains, kitchenware, textiles
- A store – I’m forgetting the name, so sniff it out – sells those sexy cat sushi roll toys! The shop forced me to stop taking pictures so here.
· Other wise words ·
- The eastern end of the market reaches the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine, so stop here for an ornate Shinto worship site. It is lanterns galore.
- Visit the market in the early AM for a BTS peek of the fresh produce arriving and the woks and grills whirring to life.
- If you have any doubts about hitting up Nishiki, know that it’s regarded as “Kyoto’s Pantry” because even the locals and region’s pro chefs visit it for vital traditional ingredients and seasonal foodstuffs. That’s how you know it’s legit. Plus the market is around 400 years old.
· Times ·
Nishiki is open seven days a week, 9am-5pm. Times can vary for individual shops and some close on Wednesday. That’s a bit of a bother for you.
· I’m a bit lost ·
The market stretches east to west from Teramachi street to Takakura street. In under five minutes, it can be reached on foot (ten minutes on stilts) from both Shijo Station (Karasuma line) and Kawaramachi Station (Hankyu line).
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