I’ve been traveling and documenting the world around me for over a decade and have lived in countries on both sides of the Atlantic, but in that time, I had never visited Japan until January of 2019, when I finally got the chance to go. What I experienced there blew my mind. This island nation’s culture, people, cleanliness, and natural beauty have made it one of my top travel and food destinations in the world. I hope my travels around the island of Honshu inspire you to visit Japan someday!
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My first day in Kyoto continued as my new friend Kosuke took me to Nishiki Market, which is a traditional fish market in the downtown area. It’s known as the Kitchen of Kyoto, so I knew I was in for some outstanding treats from the sea. At only 1,200 feet long, the market is pretty small, but there are so many shops packed into that space. I couldn’t wait to get started!
My time in the market started with some crunchy and delicious dried seaweed with sesame seeds. Then we came across some big bags of tiny crabs and more dried seaweed for just 1,100 Yen/$9.82. I tried a tiny crab with roe on it, which had an outstanding crunch and a sweet, honey-like flavor. I also tried a dried scallop, which was very dense and chewy, but very flavorful, and a small piece of bamboo shoot, which had a nice, moist crunch and an earthy flavor.
We passed some souvenir shops on our way to the next shop, which had everything from cooked fish to live fish in small tanks to animal meat on skewers, including sparrow! I tried the bone of an eel, which was crunchy and tasted like a worm!
My next culinary adventure was a small octopus with a quail egg inside (250 Yen/$2.23)! It may look a little exotic but is phenomenal. I loved it! The shop also sells large ones, which are 500 Yen/$4.47) each.
Next up were skewered rice cakes with sweet soy sauce. The consistency was gooey and almost slimy, similar to that of a mochi, and the sweet soy sauce was incredibly tasty. They’re very filling!
Next, we found a shop selling samplers of lots of different things, including baby sardines, which were dry, salty, and sticky. I followed that with kelp, which was also sticky and would go really well with rice.
At the next shop, we found bags of bonito flakes that you can eat like popcorn! Next, we visited a shop that offers over 100 different varieties of sake! I sampled some that was really good and quite strong and followed that with a full cup (400 Yen/$3.57) that was cold, dry, fruity, and delicious! Kyoto is famous for its sake, so be sure to try it when you come here!
This market has everything! As we continued, we passed by shops selling white strawberries, shoes, chopsticks, a fish market that was butchering and selling fish pieces, and much more!
Even though I was getting full, I had a Sakura Mochi (170 Yen/$1.52), which is a pink mochi wrapped in a salted cherry leaf, and a grilled green tea mochi (also 170 Yen/$1.52). The Sakura mochi was salty and grainy, almost like a sticky polenta, and had red bean paste inside it. So good! And the grilled green tea mochi was gooey and smoky and also fantastic!
Next, we passed by a shop selling sea urchin, huge oysters, snails, and roe, but I was so full I couldn’t eat anymore, so we left the market and set off to one of Kyoto’s most popular and most beautiful attractions, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove!
On our way, we stopped at a mountaintop temple (300 Yen/$2.68 entry) where a nearby section of the mountainside is dotted with over 1,000 beautiful Buddha statues! Some of them are even holding things like surfboards, tennis racquets, and baseball bats! It’s so far away from the city that not many people visit it, but it’s worth the trip!
Then, we arrived at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which is made up of a fast-growing bamboo that grows up to 60 feet in one month! It’s so beautiful and peaceful and the air smells so pure. Kosuke explained to me that all of the bamboo shoots are one organism with a shared root system!
Wow, what a day! I hope you enjoyed my awesome Japanese street seafood tour of Kyoto! If you did, please give it a thumbs up, leave me a comment below, and subscribe to my channel!
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