5 Must-Visit Markets in Kyoto if You Love Food, Crafts & Good Vibes

By Avah Atherton
Updated: December 26, 2023

Even a simple stroll down a major street counts as sightseeing in Kyoto. Expect to see shrines and temples on every other corner, and many historical houses between. The cultural capital of Japan is also home to different food and crafts markets, each with a unique character. These markets offer a variety of goods, from fresh produce and delicious street food to artisanal handicrafts and souvenirs. 

Some of the most popular markets include Nishiki Market and Tenjin-san flea market. Nishiki Market is known for its fresh produce and delicious street food, while the Tenjin-san flea market is a great place to find handmade goodies. They are a great place to find some truly special items. Include at least one of these five markets in your Kyoto itinerary.

1. Nishiki Market

Inside Kyoto's Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market, nicknamed "Kyoto's Kitchen," is one of the best food markets in Kyoto and spans 390 meters. According to historical records, it started as a fish wholesale district in 1310 and has since grown into a massive cornerstone of Kyoto's culinary heritage. It's a great place to find fresh produce, seasonal foods, and Kyoto specialties. Occasionally, food stall vendors offer samples of their dishes, or you can try small dishes from related restaurants using the very same ingredients sold elsewhere in the market. 

Visiting Nishiki Market is a must if you're interested in experiencing over 400 years of culinary development. One important note: Walking and eating are considered rude, so stay wherever you purchase your food and devour it on the spot. 

Pro tip: Try this tour of Nishiki Market and the Gion District with an English-speaking guide to get the best experience when you visit Kyoto. If you're traveling solo, the Nishiki Market street food guide might be a better fit.

2. Tenjin-san Flea Market

People shopping for antiques at Kyoto's Tenjin-san Flea Market

Don't be fooled by its name; Tenjin-san Flea Market is not your run-of-the-mill flea market. This market offers high-quality goods from local artisans. Held once a month at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, it has over 1,000 vendors selling clothes, food, fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood. Considered one of the best markets in Kyoto, it's a great place to find bargains and unique items. Unlike Nishiki Market, Tenjin-san Flea Market takes place in an uncovered area. Bad weather and other environmental factors should be considered when heading out to shop. 

3. Kobo Ichi Market

A photo of Toji Temple in Kyoto during the Kobo Ichi Market

An interesting change of pace is the Kobo Ichi Market, held at Toji Temple as part of a monthly religious commemoration of the death of the monk Kobo Daishi. Kobo Daishi is responsible for the temple's five-story pagoda. You can't miss it; it's five stories tall! During your visit to Kobo Ichi Market, you might encounter patrons and monks doing chants and other rituals in his honor. The market features over 1,000 food, crafts, and clothing stalls, making it the largest outdoor market in Kyoto. 

Pro tip: Don't be afraid to do some light (and reasonable) bargaining with vendors to get the most bang for your buck.

4. Hyakumanben Handicrafts Market

A man sells bread-shaped brooches at a flea market in Kyoto

Hyakumanben Handicrafts market is held on the 15th of every month at Chion-ji Temple. This is a popular market for handicrafts, including clothes, bread, and sweets. Only handmade goods are allowed here; with every purchase, you will support local entrepreneurs, artisans, and craftspeople. Stalls are chosen by lottery to ensure new vendors monthly to keep things fresh. Note that some stalls may only accept cash, so stop at an ATM on your way.

5. Umekoji Handicrafts Market

Somebody shopping for tableware in a Kyoto flea market.

The easily accessible Umekoji Handicrafts Market is held near the JR Kyoto Station. Like the other markets on this list, this one offers more than just handicrafts. But unlike the others, it's frequented by a diverse selection of vendors. It's a great place to find both foreign and local items, including handmade accessories, pottery, freshly made food, and baked goods. The market is also near the Kyoto Railway Museum and the Kyoto Aquarium. Bring the kids; they'll love it.

The park is spacious, so wear proper shoes to accommodate the sheer amount of walking you'll undoubtedly do.

What Food Is Kyoto Known For?

Vendor sells souvenirs at Kitano Tenmangu shrine flea market in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto is known for delicious foods, but these are some of the most popular:

  • Yudofu: a simple but delicious dish made with soft tofu simmered in dashi broth with soy sauce and kombu. It's served with a dipping sauce of ponzu or vinegar. 
  • Tsukemono: a variety of pickled Japanese vegetables that are a staple of Japanese cuisine. They are often served as part of a meal or as a snack. 
  • Matcha: a powdered green tea used in many dishes, including sweets, desserts, and even cheesecake. 
  • Yatsuhashi: a Japanese confectionery made with glutinous rice flour. It comes in a variety of flavors, though the most common are cinnamon and matcha. 
  • Soba: Japanese buckwheat noodles served with a dipping sauce. Many restaurants in Kyoto specialize in soba, which can be served hot or cold.

Kyoto cuisine has distinctive characteristics expressed through flavor and presentation. Get your foodie fix at a food market or, for a more formal experience, check out our list of what to eat in Kyoto for a guide on the local specialties. Although the most famous food market in Kyoto is Nishiki Market, many other markets are well worth the visit. You're sure to find small treats to munch on. Either destination will surely leave your heart full and your wallet significantly lighter.

Each market mentioned in this list operates on a very regular schedule. You can see upcoming events on the Kyoto City travel website.

Food Markets Around Japan

Japanese street food

Hungry for more? Check out our guides to Japan's most popular markets:

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We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Avah Atherton
Avah, a proud Trinidadian, has a meat mouth, a sweet tooth, and a mission to find good food and great experiences. Based in Tokyo, she enjoys long walks (especially if they lead to somewhere delicious), reading, live performances, and art exhibitions.
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