It’s your day off, the sun is out, your stomach growls and your fridge is empty. Lucky for you, there’s an abundance of food markets in Tokyo. They serve and sell fresh produce, gourmet specialties, and hot meals from nearby vendors or food trucks. In addition to giving you an array of healthy and delectable foods, many of these markets have displays of several different kinds of products and merchandise as well. This list covers only a fraction of the markets within Tokyo, but the ones that I have chosen are some of the best.
Nestled between Ueno Stations and neighboring the large Ueno Park, Ameyayokocho (Ameyoko for short) holds many different food vendors and restaurants that could keep you full for hours. There are merchants selling dry foods, seafood, crepes and other desserts, kabobs and I even managed to buy a large piece of melon on a stick. Sellers shout that they have inexpensive products and will gladly barter if you want. Through the maze of tight-knit food places, my friend bought me my first menchi katsu, a fried meat patty, for only about $2.00. Cheap and delicious!
The 81-year-old fish market in Tsukiji is an iconic attraction, not just for tourists but for residents as well. After the tuna auctions happen at the break of dawn, the market becomes crowded with vendors and customers. Walking up and down the tight aisles, they look for fresh fish to buy and eat. There are several sushi restaurants competing for business as well as individual standing merchants. Although the fresh fish is to die for, the market also sells dried foods, soft serve, fruit and other foods, which you can take home to your kitchen.
TAKEAWAY: But since this market is slowly moving to Toyosu to make way for the 2020 Olympics, better get to the famous market while it still resides in its hometown.
A large red lantern greets you at the entrance into Nakamise Market, the area which precedes the Sensoji Temple, a popular tourist attraction. The Nakamise is decorated with bright lights. This lights shine from all the shops and smaller versions of the entrance lantern line the aisles. Even though it is not common to eat while walking, that rule does not seem to apply to this shopping street. Many people walk up and down carrying fried mochi (pounded rice), soft serve ice cream, dango (a sweet rice snack) rice crackers, taiyaki (fish-shaped waffles filled with red bean), oden (savory street food) and much more. While you meander your way through the crowds of people, you can eat tasty Japanese food, browse the numerous souvenir shops, and take pictures of the fabulous Sensoji Temple.
If you are looking for gourmet foods on the go, this is the place for you. Tokyu Foodshow is located next to the east exit of Shibuya Station, in the basement of the Tokyo’s Tokyu Department Store. Many of these food vendors are branches of larger restaurants and most everything is catered towards take-out foods. However, some stands have short, slender counters at which you could stand and eat. There are merchants selling yakitori (skewered meat), sushi, cakes, cookies, vegetable entrees, salads, fresh produce, fresh meat and fish, pastries and other breads… and the list goes on.
TAKEAWAY: Nonetheless, if the options become overwhelming, just ask for an osusume (Japanese for “recommendation”) and the vendors will happily suggest something delicious (which is just about everything).
These decadent displays can get a little pricey, but the abundance and variety of foods will make you want to buy it all!
United Nations University Farmer’s Market
Whether you are looking for gourmet delicacies or trying to stock your fridge with fresh ingredients, the UNU Farmer’s Market has everything on your list. Fresh food stalls have an assortment of fruits and vegetables on display. And the farmers, who are always close by, would love to talk about their craft. In other aisles, shoppers can find specialties including quality olive oil, gourmet salts, local honey and even unique teas. And since “they” say you shouldn’t grocery shop on an empty stomach, local food trucks and carts convene nearby to fix that.
Hills Marche Farmer’s Market
Can’t find a good place to purchase organic foods? Well, search no more! Hills Marche Farmer’s Market, located in Akasaka, opens its doors at 10am to a whole world of freshness. Open every Saturday, this market is known for the farmers who grow organic fruits and vegetables in addition to the many vendors and shops that sell freshly baked bread, a variety of cheeses and wine. Often, there will also be chefs from neighboring restaurants present. They become teachers for those who want to learn about the ingredients sold at the market as well as cooking tips to better their skills in the kitchen.
Earth Day Market
Amongst the brilliant grounds of Yoyogi Park, the Earth Day Market is held once a month and is a great place to find healthy and tasty greens while giving passers-by the opportunity to participate in its recycling scheme. The market will give you a “currency” to use with the sellers for bringing in old and used bottles, bins, books and other items to recycle. Originally starting in 2006 with only six vendors, the Earth Day Market is now home to 50-60 of them. Moreover, is a great place to buy healthy food and meeting other eco-friendly advocates.
Whether you are searching for fresh ingredients for your next family dinner or just hanging outside and need a snack, Tokyo is the prime place to find a large variety of foods, both delicious and filling!