Despite having visited Japan twice before, would you believe this is only my first time paying a visit to a Japanese market? I guess third time really is the charm! Because I wanted to acknowledge this momentous occasion, I decided to write about it briefly as part of my travel diaries. This is the last one for this series!
In previous visits to Japan, I admit I haven’t been able to spend time in just one city to explore it properly. Going with tour groups equaled to a lot of hopping around from place to place, so that meant no trips to the market and no deliciously fresh sashimi. It’s been one of my frustrations. Luckily this time around, we got to briefly drop by the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market while we were here. It was very short, but very sweet.
We didn’t actually visit the confines of the Central Wholesale Market itself, but I can imagine how professionals in the restaurant and hotel business would be standing there early in the morning, bidding for the best of the best seafood or produce. They obviously get to have first pick.
This area we’re in is called the Curb Market, or the Sapporo Jyogai Ichiba, that borders the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market. It consists of nearly 80 stores and restaurants that stretches out for several blocks, laid out on opposite sides of a road. This is where the products that remain unsold after the daily bidding period is brought for retail sale. What you can expect is one of Sapporo’s largest public markets that specialize in Hokkaido seafood and produce.
This market is a great way to learn and see for yourself exactly what people mean when they say Sapporo is well known for its seafood, its produce, and its dairy. Starting with just the crabs alone, you will see mostly the top four kinds: King Crab, Queen Crab, Snow Crab, and the Horsehair Crab. I give more detailed comparisons of each in my little Sapporo Food Guide post.
The most expensive crab among the four is actually the King Crab, where a whole 2-kilogram crab can go as high as ¥27,000! A typical leg of the King Crab is as long as a forearm, and is highlighted by its tender and sweet meat. Just having it boiled in salt water is enough to maintain its natural flavours, and whether you eat this with a dip or not, it’ll taste pretty amazing. I think it’s my favourite among the four types of crabs too.
There are plenty of other seafood to see and try at the market, but my attention was inevitably stolen by these bright orange slices of what I would call the gold standard of fruit over here at Hokkaido. The Yubari melon has a reputation for being mightily expensive– the most expensive kind of melon in the world, I do believe. But I for one think it lives up to expectations. All it takes is just one bite.
For a negligible couple of seconds, the practical side of me was saying that ¥300 for a single slice of melon is outrageous. But then I also felt the need to see what the fuss was about when it came to this melon. And boy am I glad I did!
It’s nearly impossible for me to comprehend how a melon can look and taste so heavenly like the Yubari melon does! I mean, it’s “just” a melon! And yet I can’t deny the fact that all my life I’ve eaten so many melons, but never a melon like this.
The moment you bite into the Yubari melon’s firm yet delicate flesh, a burst of sweet juice floods into your mouth! And I’m not exaggerating when I say this was the most delicious melon I’ve EVER eaten. I think the melons would be a little lower priced during the summer when they are most abundant, but with the meticulous care it takes to grow these perfect babies, I doubt it would go down that much.
After my little gushing session over the Yubari melon, we were ushered into one of the stores along the Jyogai Ichiba.
Called the Kitano Gurume (or Northland Gourmet), this is one of the pioneering stores in this area with over 67 years of experience; offering locals and tourists alike a great taste of Hokkaido’s gastronomical offerings. This store sells a great mishmash of pretty much everything that Hokkaido is best known for, from seafood both fresh and cooked, to Royce chocolate, and even some of Hokkaido’s famous dairy.
There are some areas here where you can actually go and sample some goods, and I got to try some ikura. I’ve never seen them this beautiful and this large before! They’re so shiny, almost like jewelry. They’re jewels for your tastebuds actually. Every round pops in the mouth and releases some sweet and umami-filled liquid– the amount of which will shock you.
I definitely recommend having some of these when you’re here.
When I got to the refrigerated dairy section, I can’t tell you how much I wish I could buy some of these Hokkaido cheeses and butters to take home with me. I honestly didn’t know how I could keep them in good condition throughout my very long plane ride home, so I just decided that next time I get the chance to come over with my family, we’re having these for breakfast with toast during our stay!
I was especially heartbroken to have to leave this Camembert behind. One of my favourite cheeses alongside Brie!
The Kitano Gurume actually has an in-house restaurant that promises amazingly fresh seafood bowls, plus other dishes featuring the products that they sell. It’s easy to lose yourself in hunger when you catch sight of all the sparkling fresh sashimi and cooked crabs so a trip there is a rather tempting one!
It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to try anything though, because we were scheduled to have lunch at another restaurant. Little did I know that we were about to eat at the same place Anthony Bourdain visited when he came here!
Wakakoma Restaurant 大漁寿し 若駒 sits right at a corner across a parking lot here at the Jyogai Ichiba, at 21 Kita 11-Jo Nishi. I included a photo of the facade because apparently people had a hard time looking for this building. Honestly, people who can read Chinese characters like myself have a hard time finding places based on the signage in Japan because the Japanese read them differently. Those last two words are read as ruo-ju in Mandarin and I never would’ve guessed it said Wakakoma anywhere lol. 😆
Anyways, we were trying to keep up with our schedule so we hurriedly went to our seats for our meal. I didn’t get to explore the restaurant and snap pictures but I did spot this on the wall. Very cool. I love Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ show! I remember the episode of him eating ramen with corn and butter at Susukino, but I’m not sure if that’s the same one where he ate here.
I honestly didn’t really know what to expect for our lunch, except that it was probably going to be good. And thanks also to my love for sashimi, my heart jumped for joy the moment I laid eyes on this Kaisen Don. Slices of assorted fresh seafood is placed over yummy Japanese rice. I took my sweet time enjoying each piece!
Do you see those orbs of gorgeous orange ikura? How amazingly vibrant! They’re so big you can pick them up individually with a chopstick. Just pop them in your mouth and allow the sweet-savoury flavour to explode against your tongue. Now if only there was some uni in this bowl…
After the brief walkthrough here, all I have to say is: I really have to make it a habit to visit the popular wet markets in different parts of Japan. The food is unmatched in freshness! If you want to know about the other great eats I tried while I was here, read about my 7 must-try food experiences in Sapporo.
Establishments mentioned in this post:
Sapporo Jyogai Ichiba (Sapporo Central Wholesale Market)
21-2-3 Kita 11-Jo Nishi, Chuo-ku,
Sapporo 060-0011, Hokkaido
22-4-1 Kita 11 Jo Nishi, Chuo-ku,
Sapporo 060-0011, Hokkaido
21 Kita 11-Jo Nishi, Chuo-ku,
Chuo Oroshiuri Ichiba, Jyogai Ichiba,
Sapporo 060-0011, Hokkaido