Japan’s food markets tell the story of the nation’s deep culinary and cultural history. While some such establishments have occupied the same locations for generations, all afford visitors the chance to interact with locals offering a variety of tantalizing local ingredients lovingly grown, caught, and prepared by skillful hands. There is a lot more to these food markets than just the food but having access to the best ingredients doesn’t hurt. Japan is certainly famous for its seafood but local food markets are still the best places to find some of the freshest shellfish and sashimi in Japan, as well as other local delicacies. Here are five local food markets to enjoy in Japan.
If you love fresh seafood, this is one of the best places in Tokyo to enjoy a seafood breakfast or lunch like sashimi, sushi or freshly cooked fish omelets. While the famed Tsukiji inner market, best known for its lively tuna auctions, moved to the brand new Toyusu location, you can still enjoy the outer market at its original location, open between 5:00 am until around noon/early afternoon. Here you can frequent the restaurants that line the narrow streets and pick up kitchen souvenirs like specialty chef’s knives, steamers, and tableware. The seafood offered in the outer market restaurants is sourced fresh from the new Toyosu market, so little has changed for anyone wanting to enjoy the bustling atmosphere and fantastic food.
Also known as ‘Osaka’s Kitchen’, Kuromon Ichiba Market is a perfect place to stop by if you’re looking for seafood, freshly cooked meals, local handmade sweets, or kitchen supplies. Parallel to Doguyasuji Shotengai, Osaka’s longest shopping arcade, the market has been enjoyed for over 170 years, and is one of the central food hubs of the city. One of the specialties that you can enjoy here is takoyaki (delicious dough balls filled with diced octopus,) as well as all manner of grilled seafood like crab legs, oysters, as well as skewered meats. Just pick a stall, order something tasty, and savor your food before moving on to the next culinary adventure. You certainly won’t leave Kuromon Ichiba hungry!
Make sure to stop by Kanazawa's largest fresh food market, which has been open since 1721. The first thing you’ll notice here is the cheerful and energetic atmosphere, with almost two-hundred shops within the market. There’s plenty going on and a lot to explore. Being a coastal city, Kanazawa specializes in seafood and many of the restaurants serve fantastic rice bowls topped with sashimi, grilled eel and other delicacies. The best thing to do here is to sample as you go and try to eat at as many different booths as you can. Be willing to try something new here and you won’t be disappointed! When you’re not eating, you can browse the other stalls for kitchenware, clothing, and souvenirs. While there, stop by Sake no Ohzawa Jizake Ichiba, a 100-year-old shop within the market that stocks the best sake from the region.
Hakodate Morning Market (Hakodate)
Hokkaido is famous for its seafood, and there’s no better place to eat your fill than in Hakodate, a city surrounded by the coast. The Hakodate Morning Market itself is right by the train station so it’s easy to drop in while exploring the city. The area is particularly famous for squid so there’s plenty of squid sashimi to be found here, you can even catch your own from the tank and hand it over to the expert chef to prepare it for you. It doesn’t get much fresher than that! Another specialty is the kaisendon, rice bowls topped with roe and sashimi. You can head over to the ’rice alley’ section to take your pick of the options for this tasty dish. For a quick snack, you can try meat buns that have been dyed black with squid ink, something you don’t see very often. There are several buildings in the market and around 250 stalls to choose from, so discovering something delicious to eat is never a challenge. If you’re looking for produce from local farmers, you’ll also find colorful fruits, vegetables, and homemade products sold here. A morning market in every sense of the word, it’s best to head to the market early for the best choice as many stalls sell out by the afternoon.
Starting out as an open-air fish market 400-years ago, Nishiki Market is now a beloved covered market stretching 1,500-meters with hundreds of vendors to visit. The market still provides vegetable, seafood, etc to many of the local restaurants but also offers a consumer side where you can eat and shop to your heart’s content. It’s a perfect place to try some of Kyoto’s specialties including some excellent pickled vegetables, delicious fish cakes, and a huge selection of grilled skewers you can take home for later.