Ito Jakuchu, Saichūfu (detail) Sano City Yoshizawa Memorial Museum Collection
Ito Jakuchu, Saichūfu (detail)
Collection of Yoshizawa Memorial Museum of Art, Sano

Learning about and experiencing Nishiki

You might wonder,“Should I learn about Nishiki before going there, or should I go there first?”
Well, Nishiki Market has a long history, and there may be some stories that will pique your interest.

400 years of history handed down to the present.

Not according to official records,
It is estimated that a market already existed in this area in the Heian period (794-1185).
However, as far as official records state, it was in 1615 that Nishiki market was born. In 1615,
the Edo shogunate officially recognized three fish wholesalers (santana-uotonya) in Kyoto.These were the Kami-no-Tana, the Nishiki-no-tana, and the Rokujo-no-tana.
That was the beginning of Nishiki’s journey toward becoming a full-scale fish market.

The groundwater was essential for the development of Nishiki Market.

The reason why it has been assumed that a market was established in this area during the Heian period (794-1192) is because the area has been blessed with good-quality groundwater. Cold groundwater is suitable for preserving fish and fowl. Furthermore, the location of the market in the center of a populated area and its convenient location for deliveries to the Imperial Palace are also considered to have been reasons for the development of Nishiki Market.

Descendible wells: The groundwater, which maintains a temperature of 15 to 18 degrees Celsius throughout the year, is called "Nishiki no mizu" (“Nishiki water”), and is known as the famous water that supported this so-called “kitchen of Kyoto.” In the past, each store in Nishiki Market had a descendible well that utilized this famous water and served as a refrigerator for storing fresh produce.

Nishiki Market is a part of Kyoto's food culture.

Nishiki Market is often referred to as "Kyoto's kitchen.” It has Kyoto vegetables, freshwater fish from Lake Biwa, hamo (pike conger), guji (tilefish), sasa flounder, yuba (soy milk skin), fu (wheat gluten cake), and more. Fresh vegetables, fish, and other seasonal ingredients used not only in Kyoto's traditional high-end restaurants, but also in Kyoto's home cooking, known as obanzai, are gathered here. There is no place like Nishiki to be exposed to Kyoto's unique culinary culture. Asking the people working in the stores for their expert opinions and knowledge on how to eat certain foods is also part of the fun. At the end of the year and during the New Year's holidays, the market is crowded with so many people that it is an effort to move forward, which is also a tradition in Kyoto.

Who called it "dung alley"?

Nishiki Koji was called "Gusoku Koji" in the Heian period (794-1185), derived from the fact that it was a place to remove one's armor and helmet (“gusoku” in Japanese) when entering and leaving the Imperial Palace. There was also a time when it was called “kuso-koji” (“dung alley” in English), possibly because of the similarity between the sounds of the words “gusoku” and “kuso.” In later years, the name was changed to Nishiki-koji.

Ito Jakuchu and Nishiki Market

Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800) is known for his eccentric compositions, superb techniques, and colors that seem to capture the viewer's heart.
In recent years, his works have become increasingly well-known and popular not only in Japan but also in Europe and the United States.
In Nishiki Market, his paintings can be seen on the shutters of stores and in many other places.

Born to a greengrocery wholesaler family in Nishiki Market

As has become well known recently, Ito Jakuchu was born in Nishiki Market to a greengrocery wholesaler family. There is a monument marking the site of his native home near the west entrance of Nishiki Market. In his paintings, including Vegetable Nirvana, Jakuchu used turnips, daikon radishes, lotus roots, eggplants, squashes, pomegranates, tangerines, and even peaches as subjects.

An exceptional painter

Ito Jakuchu was a painter active in Kyoto in the mid-Edo period. He is sometimes called a "painter of fantasy" because of his unique style that combines realism and imagination with vibrant coloring and meticulous details of plants and animals in a fantasy world. As a result of his continuous pursuit of his own expression, he has left behind a number of unique and fascinating works.

Nishiki Market’s redeemer

According to a record describing the Nishiki Market from 1771 to 1774, Jakuchu had a major role in Nishiki Market's survival. At that time, there was a dispute over the business of Nishiki Market, and Jakuchu interrupted his painting to help settle the dispute as the head of the district. He faced the challenges and solved the problems. It is no exaggeration to say that Jakuchu was the benefactor of Nishiki Market and a key person for its survival.

The symbol of Nishiki Market—
a 390-meter arcade

Nishiki-koji Street, with a street width ranging from 3.3 to 5 meters, stretches approximately 390 meters from east to west, and is lined on both sides with a variety of stores.
The red, yellow, and green arcade roof, which has been posted on Instagram very often, has become a symbol of Nishiki Market and allows the market to be enjoyed even on rainy days.

Gion Festival and Nishiki Market

The Gion Festival (Gion Matsuri), one of the three major festivals in Japan, was first held in 869,
when sixty-six spears, which corresponded to the number of provinces in Japan at the time, were erected to pray for the banishment of evil spirits and epidemics, and the spirit of the deity Gozu Tennō was enshrined in a portable shrine and carried to Shinsen-en Temple.
Although the Yamahoko-junko (procession of floats) is the most famous part of Gion Matsuri, the carrying of three portable shrines (mikoshi) dedicated to the deities of Yasaka Shrine (Shinkosai and Kankosai) are the main events of Gion Matsuri.
And Nishiki Market plays an important role in this ritual.

Nishigoza, an octagonal portable shrine.

The spirit of one of the three deities is transferred to an octagonal portable shrine (mikoshi) with a phoenix on its roof, which is carried through the ujiko neighborhoods (a district where the residents traditionally made votive visits, etc. to a certain shrine, in this case Yasaka Shrine), arriving at the otabisho (a resting place for the mikoshi) at Shijo Teramachi on the evening of July 17, and returning to Yasaka Shrine on the 24th. Since it is placed on the west side of the main shrine of Yasaka Shrine, this portable shrine is called Nishi-goza (“west seat”). It is unknown exactly when this mikoshi began to be carried in the present manner, but a record says, "Every July, residents of this area (Sanjodai Village) are sent out to carry the mikoshi for the Yasaka Shrine Festival. This has not changed since the Genroku era (1688-1704).” Sanjodai was a settlement around Nijo Castle, and it is thought that the residents of this village served in the mikoshi-carrying.

Formation of Nishiki Mikoshi Kai

Around 1924, farmers in Mibu Village began to serve in the mikoshi-carrying under the name of "Mibugumi" in place of the residents of Sanjodai Village. This Mibugumi was dissolved after World War II. At the request of Yasaka Shrine, the Nishiki Gumi (now the Nishiki Mikoshi Kai) was formed in 1947, and has been in charge of carrying the nishigoza mikoshi since then.

History of Nishiki Market

782 Enryaku era

Estimated date of birth of the street-vending fish market

The Nishiki-koji fish market has a long history and is said to have begun during the Enryaku era (782-805), although no reliable data is available.

1054 Tengi 2

“Nishiki-koji” naming

This street had been called “Gusoku-koji,” but it is said that the name was changed to “Nishiki-koji” by Emperor Goreizei in 1054.

1311 Ouchou 1

The emergence of fish stores

There is a record that "Yodo fish merchants exchanged money on Nishiki-koji," indicating that there were already several fish stores on Nishiki-koji during this period.

1615 Genna 1

First step toward becoming a fish market

For the first time, the shogunate allowed the title of fish wholesaler and designated the Kami-no-tana, Nishiki-no-tana, and Rokujo-no-tana as Kyoto's three privileged fresh fish wholesalers. This marked Nishiki’s first step toward becoming a full-scale fish market.

Illustration on Kyo-suzume,
a guidebook about places of interest in Kyoto published during the Edo period
1770 Meiwa 7

Authorization of a greengrocery street-vending market

The magistrate's office authorized a street-vending market for greengroceries at Nishiki-koji-Takakura.

1771 Meiwa 8

The efforts of Jakuchu as the head of the district

Due to the scheming of rival market Shimo-no-tana, the magistrate's office effectively ordered the cessation of operations of greengrocery street-vending in Obiya-cho, Kaiyamachi, Naka-Uoya-cho, and Nishi Uoya-cho of Nishiki-no-tana. Jakuchu, who was the head of the district at the time, worked hard to ensure the survival of Nishiki Market.

1774 An'ei 3

Official recognition of Nishiki Market

After repeated negotiations with the magistrate and others, the market was finally authorized.

Ansei Jou (A business license tablet?) (1774)
Left: front side, Right: back side
1883 Meiji 16

Abolition of the privileges of the san-tana fish wholesalers

After the Meiji Restoration, the privileges of merchant guilds and san-tana fish wholesalers were abolished, and the market became extremely chaotic due to excessive competition within the industry, and by around 1881 the number of large stores had dropped to seven.

1911 Meiji 44

Formation of Kinseikai

The Nishiki seafood industry formed the Kinseikai merchants’ association, and Nishiki Market was newly revitalized.

Kyoto Kinseikai’s 50th anniversary magazine
Fresh fish purchase notification sent to the Ministry of the Imperial
Household (1915)
1927 Showa 2

Establishment of the nation's first central wholesale market

With the establishment of the Kyoto Central Wholesale Market, many stores relocated there from Nishiki Market.

1928 Showa 3

Establishment of Kin-ei-kai

Kin-ei-kai was established with the addition of businesses handling fruits, vegetables, meat, and other groceries. The market started anew as "Kyoto's Kitchen" handling all kinds of foodstuffs.

Nishiki Market
Published in Kyoto Shimbun on June 15, 1957
1963 Showa 38

Establishment of the Kyoto Nishiki Market Shopping Street Promotion Association

The Kin-ei-kai was succeeded by the Kyoto Nishiki Market Shopping Street Promotion Association.

Nishiki-koji fish store
Published in Kyoto Shimbun on August 1, 1963
Nishiki-koji fish store
Published in Kyoto Shimbun on August 1, 1964
1965 Showa 40

Commencement of communal well water project

Permission for a communal well water project was granted by Kyoto City, and this project kicked off in 1965 with the construction of well water facilities.

1984 Showa 59

Stone-paving work begins

The aging cobblestone street was re-paved.

1993 Heisei 5

New arcade completed

The current arcade was completed using a pillar-less construction method. Completed new arcade

Completed new arcade
2005 Heisei 17

"Nishiki Market" trademark patented.

We registered the trademark in order to enhance the Nishiki brand and prevent the facile use of "Nishiki Market."

2006 Heisei 18

Friendship agreement signed with San Lorenzo Market

A friendship agreement was signed with San Lorenzo Market in Florence, Italy, the birthplace of slow food, with the aim of exchanging food culture.

2013 Heisei 25

50th anniversary of the establishment of the Promotion Association

The Kyoto Nishiki Market Shopping Street Promotion Association celebrated its 50th anniversary.

To everyone visiting Nishiki Market Request and information

Please refrain from walking while eating as it may cause trouble or trouble.
Please enjoy it in front of the store where you purchased it or inside the store.