A fish market as close to the water as you could wish for.
View of the marketplace from the second floor overpass.
While very much a tourist attraction, Karato Market is also a place for the locals to shop.
Packaging for the famed fugu pufferfish is an artwork in itself.
Seafood bounty from the nearby Sea of Japan.
Sampling tuna sashimi fresh from the marketplace is as good as it gets.
My new favorite sushi train restaurant.
The hustle and bustle of the weekend Ikiiki Bakangai market.
Karato Market is Shimonoseki’s user-friendly version of Tokyo’s huge Tsukiji wholesale fish market. However, in my opinion Shimonoseki wins hands down, by merit of both its location, and its openness to all buyers.
The fish market sits on the Yamaguchi side of the Kanmon Straits, which divides the mainland of Honshu from the southern island of Kyushu. This strait serves as the sole Eastern entrance to the Seto Inland Sea, and the enormous volumes of water flowing between it and the Sea of Japan make the straits a challenging body of water to cross.
Fast and challenging though they may be, these waters are also rich in marine life, and as I make my way toward the large entrance of the market, I’m excited by the prospect of finding all manner of creatures taken from the surrounding seas.
Crossing the walkway connecting the carpark with the market is an experience in itself.. Karato Market acts as the regional center for fresh seafood, so I shouldn’t be surprised to find it a hive of activity.
But it’s not all full-steam ahead, either. Looking down, I realize I’m above a promenade packed with people, relaxing as they stroll by the waterside. In the distance stands Kanmon Bridge crossing over to Kita-Kyushu, palm trees framing the foreground – a scene of tranquility.
Passing between the second floor restaurants, I find myself overlooking the market floor, standing directly above huge tanks full of live fish. Stalls stacked with ocean bounty sit just beyond.
The selling floor is quiet since I’ve arrived a little late to see the live auction take place. But the surrounding stalls are still busy selling the day’s catch to locals, and tuna sashimi to be devoured immediately, for tourists – well, everyone really. People here are happy and friendly, patiently helping anyone with questions.
After walking around, I’m overcome by hunger, and ask a gregarious lady selling fish id she has any recommendations. While there’s plenty to be found in the surrounding stalls, she suggests I go upstairs for sushi and sashimi, assuring me it would be excellent because all the fish had come from the market that morning.
Given the crowds milling around the front of the sushi shop, I’m expecting a long wait, but am pleasantly surprised to find an open seat at the sushi train. I’m a big fan of sushi trains, as I just love the assortment of shapes and colors constantly passing before my eyes.
(Little bit of a pro tip, as visually captivating as the plates are, to get the absolute freshest sushi at a sushi train, order directly from the sushi chef.)
The friendly chef behind the conveyor belt flashes a smile as I reel off my order. Since I was in Shimonseki, he suggests I try whale, but seeing the hesitation on my face he quickly adds, “The tuna is really good too.”
The elderly Chinese lady next to me shares a friendly smile and seems satisfied with just two plates. My stack is significantly higher – a mighty feast filled with headliners including sea urchin and tuna. The salmon was also much better than what I’ve eaten in Tokyo. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Like a fish swimming against the tide, I struggle to exit in the face of the crowds continuing to arrive for their seafood treat. Now that my stomach is not tugging away at my attention, I head back down the stairs for another look at the market.
There’s so much blowfish on sale here since fugu, as it is known in Japanese, is the most famous regional specialty in Yamaguchi. I’m allergic to the spiny, potentially poisonous fish, so they are safe from me. But even if I can’t eat it, the fugu packaging is particularly alluring. Something about the color of the thin slices and the presentation just draws in you in, even if just for a closer look.
I swing by the gregarious lady’s stall again on my way out. “How was it?” she shouts. I didn’t need to do more than smile and pat my full stomach to let her know I was more than satisfied.
“Next time come to Ikiiki Bakangai on the weekend, the market floor is packed with food booths selling the best and freshest!”
Ah yes I thought, the famous weekend market, yet another reason to come back. Already I’m looking forward to my next visit.
Photographs by Julian Littler & Shimonoseki City Text by Julian Littler
Address: 5-50 Karato-cho, Shimonoseki-shi, Yamaguchi
Karato Market is open 5 am to 3 pm Monday to Saturday; 8 am to 3:00 pm Sundays and holidays, 365 days a year.
The Ikiiki Bakangai, where the market floor bursts to live with dozens of food stalls selling fresh sushi, seafood rice bowls, fugu soup, fried foods and more is held Friday to Sunday.
Open: 10 am~3 pm (Friday & Saturday) 8 am~3pm (Sunday)
Give us your Like
Setouchi Finder Editorial Dept.
> Speaking of Setouchi, the must-eat item is seafood! – A selection of 7 spots where you can try fresh seafood.
> A selection of 7 cafes and restaurants in Setouchi with superb scenery and views of the sea.
> A tranquil garden full of Japanese beauty and a huge carpet of green moss. / Gallery Teahouse Kokemushiro (Seiyo-shi, Ehime)
> 3 places for barhopping in Yokogawawhich carefully selected by a “hard-drinking” writer / Nice Yukari, Gohan-ya Haru-chan, and Trois Copain
> Please fully enjoy local sake brewed in Tokushima at the shop where you can “buy and drink.” / Taro Saketen (Tokushima-shi, Tokushima)
> A century-old Japanese house which an Onomichi merchant used as a villa has been renovated for accommodation. / The house rental “Kujira Bekkan” (Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima)
> An inn where you can find “ordinary Kobe” / Guesthouse MAYA (Kobe-shi, Hyogo)
> This could be the best choice for your stay in Awajishima! How about having a family trip while staying at a hot spring resort where you can get a great ocean view? / Hotel New Awaji Group (Sumoto-shi, Hyogo)
> Come and see, rail fans! A new base for a circular sightseeing tour in Shikoku, which is produced by JR SHIKOKU./ 4S STAY Awaikeda Sta.(Miyoshi-shi, Tokushima)
> Books, a bar, and international exchange!? 3 selections of hotel and guesthouses which have attractive little perks in the center of Hiroshima / (KIRO Hiroshima -THE SHARE HOTELS-, EN HIROSHIMA, and 36HOSTEL)
> Visit historic spots in the city center of Hiroshima on foot and learn about the history of peace (Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima)
> This is the ultimate soothing trip – feel the sense and the heart of Japan in Uchiko Town and Ozu City in Ehime.
> Beauty exists in every detailed corner of your eyesight! 8 spots where you can see wonderful views of Setouchi and its beautiful islands.
> Visiting the well-known “power spots” where mystical energy flows! This northern drive route visits temples, shrines, and cultural heritage sites in Tottori, Shimane, and Yamaguchi
> A continual stream of natural beauty which will make your heart tremble! The eastern drive route covers the best viewing spots in Okayama, Hyogo, and Tokushima
> Let’s enjoy a liberating new Setouchi voyage by “SEA SPICA”!
> The last report on the shipbuilding of “SEA SPICA,” the high-speed sightseeing cruiser for island hopping in Setouchi -Vol.5. STU48 members attended the launching ceremony. / West Japan Railway Company 【PR】
> A report on the shipbuilding of “SEA SPICA,” the high-speed sightseeing cruiser for island hopping in Setouchi -Vol.4. STU48 members paint the ship’s logo! / West Japan Railway Company 【PR】
> A report on the merging of the superstructure and the base of “SEA SPICA,” the high-speed sightseeing cruiser for island hopping in Setouchi Vol.3 by members of STU48 / West Japan Railway Company 【PR】
> A report on the shipbuilding of “SEA SPICA,” the high-speed sightseeing cruiser for island hopping in Setouchi. Vol.2 shows you the “Reversal Procedure” where the ship is turned over. / West Japan Railway Company 【PR】
> Shimanami Kaido - Cyclist's Paradise
> Onomichi U2 and the Giant Store – the perfect partners for enjoying the Shimanami Kaidō
> Eating, Cycling & Getting Warm : Akiyoshidai Karst Road (Mine City, Yamaguchi Prefecture)
> Kasaoka Island Hopping by Bike : A perfect 2-day trip! (Okayama)
> A Rare Lighthouse & Spelunking!? Traversing Ogijima by Bicycle! (Ogi, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture)
> “ONOMARU SHOUTEN” is the shop which has all of Onomichi’s fascinations. / JR Onomichi Ekisha (Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima)
> Kobe Shopping: 3 Distinct Local Brands to Bring Home（Kobe, Hyogo）【PR】
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
> “Meika Shitatsuzumi, ”a Japanese sweet from Yamaguchi which is soft, pleasant and melty on your tongue / San-in-do (Yamaguchi-shi, Yamaguchi)
> Let’s enjoy taking a walk down the shopping street near Matsuyama Castle./Matsuyama Ropeway Shopping Street (Matsuyama-shi, Ehime Prefecture)
See more articles about "Gourmet"GourmetList
Kobe City Himeji City Amagasaki City Akashi City Nishinomiya City Sumoto City Ashiya City Itami City Aioi City Toyooka City Kakogawa City Ako City Nishiwaki City Takarazuka City Miki City Takasago City Kawanishi City Ono City Mita City Kasai City Sasayama City Yabu City Tanba City Minamiawaji City Asago City Awaji City Shiso City Kato City Tatsuno City Inagawa Taka Inami Harima Ichikawa Fukusaki Kamikawa Taishi Kamigori Sayo Kami Shinonsen
- Okayama Pref.
- Hiroshima Pref.
- Yamaguchi Pref.
- Tokushima Pref.
- Kagawa Pref.
- Ehime Pref.