By Bonson Lam
The Citizens Market sounds like some throwback to the Soviet era, to a time where the socialist utopia promised enough food for all. There are no posters advancing the workers’ progress however, and if you want to see pictures of a workers and farmers movement, you may be better off heading down to the aptly named red brick building to view the works at the Tokushi Katsuhira Memorial.
On the other hand, if you want to find out where the locals come to participate in some free market action, this is the place.
In a small city like Akita, word gets out quickly on where the freshest and best food is to be found. If you want the best and freshest of all, you must go to the markets. Even the film crew from the TV series “Iris” came here to sample the wares, and you can imagine shopping with Yuki and Seonhwa here.
For many gourmets these markets bring out their inner chef, however if you don’t want to cook, try the many eateries strategically dotted next to the fresh food markets. You can’t get much fresher than the live, swimming fish. You can get Chinese style soba for just 650 yen, but for my money, try the Ichiban sushi restaurant. They serve the most delicious seafood and the best Akita komachi rice grain. Imagine what you can expect from matching the best of the best.
I know there are two kinds of gourmets. One who likes to follow the best brands, and where the atmosphere and decor is an important part of the experience. The other kind just goes for the food, no matter what the decor looks like. The former can try the boutique sushi restaurants in Tsukiji. But for somewhere more earthy and casual, and still reminiscent of the Tsukiji markets, you can’t beat the Ichiban sushi restaurant in the Akita markets. What it lacks in fancy decor, it more than makes up in taste, as you can taste some of the regional fish not available elsewhere served as sushi. There are no tourists here, no globalized bland menus, and even Japanese from other prefectures will find this place exotic sampling the unique regional cuisine and even more unique regional dialects. If you can speak fluent Japanese, ask about the local fish but it is okay if you don't understand every word of the Akita dialect perfectly. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the earthy friendly banter of this relaxed country market. And if you can’t, have a look at the seasonal fish posters around the market. This is possibly one of the best fish markets outside Tsukiji in Tokyo.
While you are at it, check out the 87 stalls in the market, from fish, to packaged izakaya food and vegetable stalls. It must be one of the biggest yet easy to navigate markets around. You can even send anything you buy to your family or friends in Japan directly via the takkyubin parcel service as you pay at the cashier.
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