Popular Seafood Markets and Ports in the Kansai Region

ByJustin Hanus
Dec 23, 2022

Popular Seafood Markets and Ports in the Kansai Region

Japan is well known for its seafood — in fact, seafood is a major part of its culture. To find the freshest dishes, your best option is to head to one of the numerous seafood markets around the country. The good news is there’s no need to prepare the produce from these markets yourself: there are always restaurants in the ports that will serve you picture-perfect and lip-smacking seafood dishes.

Tsukiji Market is probably one of Japan’s most popular seafood markets — this humongous seafood haven appears in numerous documentaries. However, few tourists know that there are other amazing ports and markets outside Tokyo, all of which offer fresh catches for visitors. Some of the larger and more popular ports are in the Kansai region. These supply the restaurants and hotels of the area (and sometimes even the entire country) with high-quality seafood.

Before you head to the nearest port, it’s important to note that some markets are only open to the public at certain times of the week. Some are never open to the public at all, but these tend to have restaurants nearby that source their fish from the markets. There are several top places you can visit in locations all around Kansai.

Kobe Uonotana Fish Market, Kobe

If you’re craving seafood while in Kobe, Uonotana Fish Market in Akashi is the place to be. Its name means “fish shelf,” reflecting that it supplies the local community with all its marine produce — as it has done for more than 400 years. Offerings come directly from the Akashi Straits, with trading beginning around 3:30 a.m. Restaurant owners and representatives flock to the market at the crack of dawn to buy the freshest catch. For regular visitors, though, the market is open from 9:30 a.m. on weekends and 10:00 a.m. on weekdays.

Izumisano Market, Osaka

Located on the bay opposite Kansai International Airport, Izumisano is an open-air market. Although it only spans 100 meters and houses 30 shops, there’s a huge selection to choose from. In fact, the market is the second-biggest supplier of seafood in the entire country. To feast on the fresh catch, head to a restaurant on the second floor called Iruka. Here, you can choose from set meals and various grilled dishes. It’s important to note that this restaurant is extremely popular — expect to be waiting in line for a long time, especially if you visit on a weekend.

Tajiri Port, Osaka

The famous Tajiri Port is open only on Sundays from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This makes it an ideal destination during a weekend trip to Osaka — visit the other attractions in the city on Saturday and then have an early start on Sunday to ensure you’ll have time to visit the port. Alternatively, you can sample dishes from Tajiri Port at Nishikawa (the port’s restaurant) on any day of the week. Since it’s particularly busy around dinner time, make a reservation to avoid a long wait. You’ll be able to sample sushi, sashimi, and tempura, all at affordable prices.

Nishiki Market, Kyoto

A shopping area with more than 100 stalls, Nishiki Market, has the best seafood in Kyoto. You’ll be able to try a wide variety of flavors in dishes made from the freshest catch served with vegetables that are an important part of traditional Kyoto cuisine. The market has existed for more than 400 years and was recognized as a fish wholesaler by the Edo shogunate in 1615. In its early days, before refrigeration had been invented, sellers would keep their produce cool by using underground water.

Michi-no-Eki Maizuru Port, Kyoto

The fish market at Maizuru Port offers inexpensive seafood prepared in whatever style you like, including grilled or even raw. Pick out what you want, pay for it, and the seller will clean and prepare your seafood. You can sample a wide variety of items — the oysters are particularly popular, but there’s also crab, scallops, squid, and much more. For a more complete meal, purchase a bowl of rice to accompany your seafood from one of the vending machines.

Toretore Market Nanki Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture

As well as fresh seafood, Toretore Market sells local products like spirits and umeboshi: salt-pickled ume. After you’ve made your purchases, the stalls in Barbecue Corner will grill whatever you want for a small charge. Best of all, the market is a bus ride away from the beach, meaning you can take a dip or relax on the shore after your seafood feast. Toretore Market is bustling all year round — you can visit any day of the week between 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Tsuruhashi Maguro, Osaka

Much more than just a fish market, Tsuruhashi in Osaka sells a wide variety of foods, including fresh seafood from Mie prefecture and other places in Kansai. The highlight if you’re looking for fish has to be the maguro zuke don: a rice bowl with marinated raw tuna. You can purchase a (huge) serving from Tsuruhashi Maguro Dining Hall.

Kyoto City Central Wholesale Market

Business owners come to Kyoto City Central Wholesale Market to purchase fish, vegetables, meat, and other supplies. There’s an auction for seafood starting at 5:20 a.m. every day. The best time to visit is the second Saturday of the month when there’s a market for regular consumers. In addition, you can visit the sushi market at any time. A particularly popular restaurant is Kyo Suzaku Sushi Ichiba. It has a conveyor belt, but you can also order off the menu if nothing passing you takes your fancy.

It’s amazing to eat seafood that was alive just a few minutes before. Seafood markets in Japan have long been tourist destinations because of the convenience, world-class service, and top-quality produce they offer all year round. Although there are guidelines to follow — especially in the wholesale markets — you shouldn’t feel intimidated. You’ll certainly enjoy watching, choosing, and feasting on the bounty from the seas.

By Alex Knight agkdesign (https://unsplash.com/photos/sxgRZMimJx0) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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