The best fish in the world, from a Kyoto market

Last week in Kyoto, living a Travelife, we visited Kyoto’s most famous market for a meal. For foodies the world over who find themselves in Japan’s ancient capital, this is a necessary stop because all the best food in western Japan finds its way to this market.

The reason for this is simple: almost all the ryokan and fine dining Japanese restaurants in Kyoto (called ryotei) do their shopping here, so the consistent demand guarantees a steady supply of some of the best food in this part of Japan.

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Prices are not very cheap compared to the regular markets elsewhere, but the high quality of the produce justifies the price. And, of course, it’s a great experience to shop in this very same market that has been in business for centuries. You’re literally paying for quality and a piece of history.

We really intended to visit this market and have lunch here, in between a very luscious breakfast at Japan’s best traditional inn and an equally wonderful Kyoto dinner at one of Japan’s best restaurants — a Michelin three-star restaurant by the river.

There are few real restaurants along the market street itself, so we just planned to eat as we walked and sample whatever looked good.

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Almost every stall was offering samples of their food, so even just from the samples I was already quite full. Kyoto is very famous for its pickled vegetables, so I had my fill of stuff like pickled radish and pickled cucumbers, as well as all kinds of dried fish.

Then we chanced upon a fresh fish stall that was also selling some roasted fish on the side.

The vendor said: “This is the best fish you’ll ever taste. I guarantee.”

It certainly looked lip-smackingly good. But however were we supposed to eat this fish in the middle of a busy market?


This made me temporarily lose interest in the idea, and I went on to the next stall which was selling more pickles. But while I was doing so, apparently one of my companions was having a discussion with the vendor about our options for having this fish at all costs.

Eventually he walked up to me and my other companions and said: “The guy says he can heat it on his charcoal grill and we can eat it on that table inside.”

He then pointed to what looked like a fornica table inside. It seemed to have been used for packing fish and other operations. This was so not my first option in my typical never-endingly eventful Travelife. But what the heck, I though, and I guess everyone else felt the same way. We all nodded our heads in agreement.


And how wonderful that we ended up doing so, because that was truly just about the best fish I’d tasted. We ate this with Asahi beer and were very happy for the rest of the day — or at least until dinner time.

Read more about Kyoto and our Travelife picks for where to go, stay and eat in an upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine.

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