The best place to sample local cuisine is at the fresh food markets, and one of the most famous markets in Fukuoka is Yanagibashi Market. Located next to the Nakagawa River, Yanagibashi is known colloquially as “Hakata’s Kitchen” and offers a wide variety of fresh food. There are specialty shops for all kinds of foods—from seafood, meat, fruits and vegetables to mentaiko, dried goods, tea and sweets—some of which you won’t find in your local supermarket. The market is always bustling, and it is a popular destination for restaurant owners and homemakers alike.
The precursor to Yanagibashi Market was an independent fishmonger who used a two-wheeled cart to haul his wares from the fish market in Ohama (now the site of the Fukuoka City Central Wholesale Market) in the early days of the Showa Era. In time, several more shops moved into the area, giving rise to the market in its current form. One attraction of the vibrant market is the cacophony of shop owners’ sales pitches. Many people born and bred in Hakata still choose to shop at the market because they can procure unique local ingredients there.
Another recommended stop is the Nagahama Seafood Market. Handling roughly 300 kinds of seafood, including fresh fish from all over Kyushu, it is one of the biggest seafood markets in Japan. Seafood landed at the adjacent fishing port is auctioned off every morning and hauled to destinations near and far. The market also serves to promote fish consumption: There are fish restaurants open to the general public and classes on the proper way to eat fish.
The second Saturday of every month is community appreciation day at Nagahama Seafood Market, and parts of the market typically reserved for vendors and other authorized personnel are opened to the public. On these days, anyone is welcome to stop by and buy their fish wholesale. Meanwhile, Yanagibashi Market holds the Umakamon Festival every year on the first Sunday of November. An annual customer appreciation event, the festival features auctions of luxury foods, food stalls and much more.
Originally published by Fukuoka Now (November 2013).