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The souls of Japanese food markets

You can’t feel the chaotic atmosphere and scrambled noises of typical markets here.

People talking loudly, vendors shouting the offer of the day, workers zooming between the stalls with carts full of fresh produce, shoppers negotiating prices.
It is an unsettling and distinct way to experience a familiar place. 
I am taken by surprise yet again by Japan and its ways to reveal its unique personality through mundane things.

best food markets in Japan
Fresh fish at the best food market in Tokyo
Snack octopus at the best fish market in Kyoto

The orderly rows of unusual produce include sea creatures and brightly coloured vegetables that seem to have come out of a Studio Ghibli movie.

And while the food being sold might be similar in every market throughout Japan, each market has its own not-so-subtle distinctive style.

cute japanese buns shaped like hedgehogs in Tokyo food market
colourful pickled vegetables in Kyoto market

Kanazawa market – the rebel teenager

Some markets have a more “in your face” approach to them.
They want to make a statement, like a teenager dyeing their hair with an improbable colour.
In the Omicho Market in Kanazawa, the distinguishing keyword is green.
Not just any green, neon green.
With green being my favourite colour, I am absolutely digging the vibe here.

neon green baskets at the fish market in Kanazawa
fish stall in kanazawa food market
octopus bites in Kanazawa food market

Green ceilings, green decorations and – my personal favourite – flashy green plastic baskets which barely fit those giant red daddy-long-legs crabs.
The colour combo red-green makes for very interesting photographs so my artistic spirit is fulfilled.

Man selling fish at the market in Kanazawa
crabs on display at the market in Kanazawa
Man selling fish at the market in Kanazawa
crabs on display at the market in Kanazawa
Lady sells fish at the market in Kanazawa

Kyoto market – the granny, keeper of traditions

Nishiki Market in Kyoto is a portrait of the city’s style and energy.
Wooden barrels, bamboo containers, woven wicker baskets, paper lanterns.
Kyoto is the formally traditional capital of Japan and the pace is much slower here.

old man in his shop in Kyoto market
market stall with lanterns in the Kyoto market
miso vegetable store in the Kyoto market

At different times of day, expect to run into grandmas lugging heavy-looking wheely shopping carts full of fresh ingredients and students wearing manga style uniforms stopping to buy whatever ingredient granny forgot.

dried food stall in the Kyoto market
woman selling chestnuts in the Kyoto market
Man washing vegetables in the Kyoto market
miso vegetables in the Kyoto market

Tokyo – the hurried businessman

You can tell you’re in the capital when the booths of fresh ingredients and the old ladies walking slowly amongst the stalls are replaced by businessmen in suits and distracted tourists grabbing street food and eating it quickly and mindlessly while rushing to be somewhere else.

man prepares street food in Tsukiji market in Tokyo
japanese street food in Tsukiji market in Tokyo
Tsukiji market in Tokyo

Harbouring a mentality so distant from the traditional Japanese culture of mindfulness and slow living, Tokyo is its own universe.
And Tsukiji market, filled with street food, ready-made meals and unfussed izakayas, perfectly sums up this facet of the lively capital.

yakitori skewers in Tsukiji market in Tokyo
lady selling street food in Tsukiji market in Tokyo
display of street food in Tsukiji market in Tokyo

best food markets in Japan for photography

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