Nishiki Market in Kyoto Aims for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Listing Alongside Other Global Covered Markets

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nishiki Market in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, is crowded even on weekdays.

KYOTO — Nishiki Market in Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward, known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, along with other covered markets around the world is seeking to attain registration as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage site. Stakeholders are hopeful that this initiative will serve as an opportunity to reclaim traditional market culture.

The initiative was initiated by the long-standing tourist destination San Lorenzo Market in Florence, Italy, which reached out to other covered markets around the world. Nishiki Market signed a friendship agreement with the market in 2006 and has promoted regular exchanges. So far, thirteen markets from ten countries including Israel, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and Latvia have shown their support for the initiative, and markets from Thailand and Mexico are also potential participants.

In May, markets that have agreed to participate will establish a council and begin the process of applying for UNESCO registration, in addition to promoting global awareness of preserving and continuing market culture. They will also explore solutions to overtourism, a common challenge faced by these markets. According to the association to promote the Nishiki Market, the market has a 400-year history and consists of about 120 stores along an arcade-covered street that is about 390 meters long and 3.3 meters wide.

In recent years, the market has welcomed an average of 18,000 visitors daily, many of whom are foreign tourists. While the market previously catered primarily to local consumers, it has recently seen an increase in shops and dining establishments aimed at foreign visitors.

“In the past, Nishiki Market was a place where a rich market culture was cultivated through communication between customers and shop owners, with customers frequently asking about how to cook the ingredients sold at the stores,” said Akira Shimizu, 60, the executive secretary of the association.

“We hope that aiming for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage registration will prompt both merchants and consumers to reevaluate the value of Nishiki Market.”