By Mandy Bartok
In my opinion, there is nothing more exciting than marketplaces in Asia. They are so full of life: the yelling vendors, the haggling buyers, the intoxicating mix of smells and sights and colours. It is a sensation overload that cannot be matched in the Western world. When I thus heard that Kanazawa hosts a lively seafood market that has been running since the Edo Period, I could not wait to check it out. Camera in tow, I jumped on the next bus, and soon I found myself at the entrance to an enormous, sprawling complex of shops and stalls just outside the city’s train station.
With over two hundred shops and stalls to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice. The selection of fresh seafood available is totally astounding. Piles of glistening oysters are stacking alongside enormous king crabs. Various types of fish, plucked fresh from the ocean, are placed on display for discerning shoppers to examine. Not such a fan of handling your own raw seafood? No problem. Here you will find many vendors offering beautiful barbequed seafood, or fresh oysters that you can shuck back with dark soy sauce. Furthermore, there is an array of top quality sushi restaurants that dish out plates upon plates of the freshest sashimi to hungry patrons. Don’t be surprised if you have to queue to get in to the best of these establishments!
Seafood is not the only item available being peddled at Omi-cho. I saw stalls with incredible vegetables – apples the size of grapefruits, grapefruits the size of footballs – and cascading summer flowers for sale. There were also ice cream vendors, bakeries and, perhaps a little oddly, clothing stores. With so much to see, taste and buy, you could easily while away a good few hours at this frenetic place.
As with any fresh food market, it is best viewed in the morning, when the seafood is brought in still wriggling from the nearby seaside. It also heaves around the afternoon, however, when tourists and locals flock to view the mania and grab some lunch.
Omi-cho market’s close vicinity to the station means that you could easily fit this in on your way in or out of Kanazawa City. However, I recommend getting there early with a few hours to spare in order to take in the space in its full glory.
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South African born Anna is a writer with a passion for photography, food and travel. After a sojourn in Vietnam, she moved to Edinburgh where she completed her Masters degree in modern literature. Asia has captured her imagination, and she hopes to see much more of the continent in the near future.