3 Superb Japanese Food Markets You Should Not Miss
The phrase "Asian food market" tends to invoke images of noisy, messy, and crowded alleys. This is not at all the case for Japanese food markets. While no less delightful in ambiance, public food markets in Japan are orderly and clean—a relaxing and yummy experience for any visitor. When traveling in Japan, you should make the effort to visit at least one.
1. Kuromon Ichiba, Osaka (黒門市場)
“Osaka’s Kitchen” was originally named Enmyoji Ichiba after a nearby temple. After the temple was destroyed by fire in 1912, the marketplace came to be known as Black Gate, or Kuromon, after the original black gate of the temple. Nowadays beloved by locals and tourists alike for its many stalls cooking and serving fresh seafood on the spot, Kuromon Ichiba is also home to a variety of shops selling bags, apparel, and daily necessities, making it a convenient and affordable location to pick up travel supplies. Best of all, the market is located in the Chuo district, just minutes away from the popular Dotonbori and Shinsekai areas. You can easily combine a visit to all three areas within a day.
Kuromon Ichiba is a short walk from Nippombashi Subway Station and Kintetsu Nippombashi Station.
2. Nishiki Ichiba, Kyoto (錦市場)
Busy Shijō Street is the main shopping thoroughfare of Kyoto, full of modern department stores and shops. Last than a minute away, on the other hand, is Nishiki Ichiba, a lively covered bazaar specializing in all things food-related. Famous as the marketplace where top Kyoto chefs source their ingredients, Nishiki is an absolute delight for anyone exploring the intricacies of Japanese cuisine, with many stalls often giving out samples or selling sampler dishes. For visitors not into cooking, the food market also has a handful of handicraft and apparel stores. Many uniquely Japanese souvenirs can be easily found here.
Nishiki Ichiba is less than a minute’s walk north of Shijō Street. The closest subway station is Shijō Station on the Karasuma Subway Line. The market is also within walking distance of both Karasuma and Kawaramachi Stations on the Hankyu Kyoto Line. It can easily be part of a travel itinerary that includes nearby Gion District and Yasaka Shrine.
3. Tsukiji Jōgai Shijō, Tokyo (築地場外市場)
First and foremost, Tsukiji Jōgai Shijō (or Tsukiji Outer Market) was not affected by the much-publicized Tsukiji Market shift of October 2018. What was relocated to Toyosu was the wholesale aspect of the market. The Outer Market's many shops remain in business where they have long been.
Secondly, in spite of the thousands of tourists that visit it each day, Tsukiji Jōgai Shijō is still a must-visit on any Tokyo travel itinerary. Other than a fascinating variety of freshly prepared seafood and other Japanese delicacies, the bustling alleys offer a glimpse at how old Tokyo (i.e. Edo market streets) must have been like in the past. At the same time, the marketplace is also a great spot to buy food ingredients such as dried scallops. While prices might not be the best within Japan, what’s sold is always top-notch in quality, with shops highly familiar with non-Japanese speaking customers too.
Last but not least, and rather like Osaka’s Kuromon Ichiba, the Outer Market is but minutes away from the glitzy Ginza shopping district. In the morning, you could be feasting on fresh sashimi under the rising sun. In the afternoon, you would be sipping flower tea in a swanky minimalist café.
Tsukiji Jōgai Shijō is a short walk from Tsukiji Shijō Station on the Oedo Subway Line and Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Subway Line.
Etiquette When Visiting Japanese Food Markets
Regrettably, an ever-rising number of visitors each year has attracted complaints from local residents and shoppers. When visiting any Japanese food market, do observe the following:
- Bargaining is not the culture at Japanese marketplaces. You will attract very strained looks if you insist on doing so.
- The Japanese generally frown on eating while walking. In other words, please eat your purchases at the stores you bought them from.
- Another very good reason not to eat while walking is that trash bins are phenomenally difficult to find in Japan, nowadays. On the other hand, practically all shops have bins for you to dispose of your skewers, paper boxes, etc.
- When taking photographs, please be sensitive to other shoppers and diners. Not everyone appreciates being a part of your travel memories.
- Needless to say, any shop in the world will consider you an annoyance if you spend half an hour shooting photos but leave without buying anything.
- What’s most important to remember is that these public markets are patronized by locals too. In other words, you are welcomed to window-shop. But please do not block locals from buying what they need.
3 Must-Visit Japanese Food Markets
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© 2019 Kuan Leong Yong