FIRST order of the day: visit the market.

It is not just any market, but Nishiki Market, Kyoto’s go-to place to acquire the best traditional foods, ingredients and kitchen-related goods. It’s the largest traditional market in the city and the locals refer to it as “Kyoto’s pantry”.

Arriving in the ancient capital of Japan for the first time, Nishiki Market was the second city attraction I am checking out. The Kyoto Station, with its sheer size and numerous offerings ranging from retail and cuisine to entertainment and accommodation, was the first.

Wanting to make most of the five-day visit, I arrived in Kyoto at mid-morning, made a quick tour of the station and went to find my hotel at the city center, which is a couple of subway stops away.

After a brief search of the capsule hotel I picked from the web, I dropped off my bag as it was too early to check-in and walked to the market a couple blocks away.

Nishiki Market, which literally translates to “brocade market”, is said to have a history of several centuries old and started off as a fish wholesale district. It was around 1310 when the first store opened shop. Soon after, other shops moved in offering other goods and it turned from wholesale to retail market.

Having seen geta craftsmen of different ages manning the family shop along the Old Tokaido Road in Tokyo, I will not be surprised if the practice is the same in this market, where store operations have been passed through generations.

Weaving through the long lane stretching for five blocks is a good mix of both locals doing their regular buying chores and curios tourists shopping for souvenirs, sampling local delicacies or feasting on Kyoto’s famed culinary delights.

From small stalls to two-story shops, there are hundreds of stores in this market with most specializing in a particular type of food that is locally produced. This makes the market a good hunting ground for ingredients of traditional Kyoto cuisine, like the Japanese pickles, vegetables, seafood ranging from shellfish to whale, tea and even the sweet stuff.

What I love about Nishiki Market is that it’s very clean and orderly. Well, that is expected of course, but in this atmosphere, you tend to lose track of time. I suggest you allot a good number of hours when visiting this attraction, more if you’re a foodie.

Foodie or not, you’d probably be stuffed or lugging a good load of foodstuff and souvenirs once you’ve reached the end of the lane. What greets you is another attraction bidding you to explore further.

Yes, the tour of Nishiki is not yet over. Say a little prayer at the Nishiki Shrine. That’s the next story.

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