It was 9.30am on a Sunday and I was excitedly observing the scene before me. Rows of shops flanking a 5-metre walkway selling seafood, vegetables, fruit, sweets and just about anything needed to cook a wonderful Japanese meal were presented before me. They were fresh and irresistible. Even the dried ingredients looked good. On top of that, they were attractively packaged and displayed.
As a person who’s trying to master Japanese cooking, I felt like a kid in a candy store.
My camera was in my hands, ready to capture this wonderful scene. Then my sister said, “I don’t think these people would appreciate you taking shots of them and their shops.” I sighed and put my camera down.
This is Nishiki Market, also known as the Kitchen of Kyoto. Nishiki started in 1311 as a fish market with several wholesale stores. Over time, there was a shift from wholesale to retail trade and stores selling other than fish opened. Unlike supermarkets, what’s sold here are sourced and produced locally. This was the destination I missed when I visited in May.
There was this internal struggle in me. While I enjoy capturing moments on camera, there were times when I felt like I might have missed out on fully enjoying myself. Perhaps this time round, it might be better to take it in with my senses. Or maybe, I could try to do both. I will only take shots when I really can’t resist. With my iPhone, I can be discreet although the results of this compromise may not be as good as I like.
It was chestnut season and the aroma of chestnuts roasting filled the air. The locals were excitedly queuing to make their purchase and there were more crowding around, watching the chestnuts being roasted. My sister joined the queue.
As I looked around me, I felt a tinge of disappointment. There were so many things I would like to buy but I can’t. With the little space I had left in my suitcase, there was no way I could fit all of them in. Neither could I carry jars of miso paste and sauces on the plane. Having sampled the different types of food and ingredients only made matters worse.
But when I tasted the dried fruit, I threw caution to the wind. I left the shop happily carrying packets of dried oranges, figs, raisins, a big packet of the most fragrant sesame seeds and a jar of condiment.
It was a morning well-spent. Should I visit Kyoto again, I’ll be back.
All photos were taken using an iPhone 3GS
Text and photos © blackfrangipani and I design and create 2011