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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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