More than 95% of tourists visit this market
Nishiki Market has been in central district of Kyoto for more than 1000 years. It would be a small area where there were handful fishmongers who were selling fresh fishes to the Imperial Palace. In ancient Kyoto, no refrigeration systems were available, so the fishmongers were using groundwater of which temperature stayed around 63 - 65 degrees F throughout the year. The groundwater drawn from the wells around Nishiki Market area has been one of the highest quality waters in Kyoto, and so it was perfect for cleaning the fishes.
Nishiki Market had prospered through the Edo period, supported by not only the Imperial Palace but local restaurants. But in 1927, it experienced a difficult time, when Kyoto Central Wholesale Market was opened (the 1st central wholesale market in Japan - Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market was opened afterwards - f.y.i.). Many of the clients changed the supply source to the central wholesale market and the downfall of Nishiki Market began.
Threatened by the central wholesale market, Nishiki Market decided to change their business style from wholesaler to retailer, targeting individual consumers. That change saved the market and now there are around 130 shops where we can buy anything needed for preparing dishes - ranging from chef knives, seafoods, meats, produce to deserts, etc. There are also many restaurants in the market, too.
Nishiki Market is just a part of huge shopping district in the heart of Kyoto
Nishiki Market is a narrow alley with small shops on both sides, and it runs from west to east - about 1/4 mile long. Near the east-end of the market, the alley crosses two popular shopping arcades - Teramachi Shopping Arcade and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade. Many souvenir shops, phermacies, shoe stores, men's & ladies' clothing shops, etc. Also, the market is parallel to Shijo Street which is one of the major shopping streets in Kyoto where there are several department stores, too.
So, when you visit Nishiki Market, you may want to spend more time in these shopping arcades and the street. Oh, at the east-end of Nishiki Market, you can see a Torii Gate which is on the way to Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine. Deity of the shrine is Sugawara-no-Michizane, the God of learning.