In the spirit of the Olympic Games being held in Tokyo, and while we’re under duress of not being able to travel, I thought I would take you on a journey, back to pre COVID-19 times, when I visited the Japanese city of Hakodate on the island of Hokkaido. It’s not Tokyo but has wonderful and interesting food markets – and the Olympic Marathon is being run in nearby Sapporo – Welcome to Hakodate!
Food is a great insight into understanding the characteristics and culture of a place, and I don’t mean just eating at a local restaurant. I’ve got this obsession when I (get to) travel, I love to go into the local markets and supermarkets and just wander around looking at what is on offer. What do the locals buy to take home and cook? What do they have that I can’t get at home in Sydney? It really is a fascinating way to, in a small way, immerse yourself into a destination.
The Japanese people love their food, and Hokkaido is known as the food island, it’s where they consider some of the best seafood and produce comes from, akin to Tasmania for us Aussies. So why am I Hakodate you ask? While it’s not really a tourist hotspot, it was a stop on a 15 night trans-pacific cruise I took from Canada to Japan. After 8 nights at sea, I was ready to explore the markets of this lesser known city.
As soon as I disembarked I headed straight to the Hakodate Morning Market known for it’s exciting fresh seafood and produce.
Check out the Ika – squid! These cartoon like creatures looks like something from a cartoon to me.
Ke Gani or Horsehair crab grows locally around the Hokkaido coastline and can reach up to 1kg! Here they are sold by size and prices start from around AU$31 for the smallest to AU$119 per crab!
Ne Hokke or also known as the Atka mackerel is a local fish which comes from the North Pacific Ocean. Ma Hokke is a migratory fish but some stay on the one spot – which is quite rare – and become Ne Hokke. Ne Hokke from Hakodate is considered prized throughout Japan. Here they sell for around AU$11 each or AU$32 for a three pack.
Nama Ginsei Sake – Fresh Coho salmon which can also be known as silver salmon. Ginke Sake is the Coho salmon grown in Hidaka on the coast in Hokkaido, some 300kms north of Hakodate. Ginsei Sake is considered the king of Ginke sake. There is limited batch caught and account for only 5~6% of salmon caught in Hidaka. Only selected suppliers can sell these beauties. Here they sell for around AU$123 to AU$154 per fish!
Iki kaki – live oyster. I have honestly never seen oysters so big! These live oysters are best for sashimi or grilling – I don’t think you’d want to have an oyster shooter with one of these. The cost is around AU$38 for 2kgs, although I am not sure how many that would yield with their size!
It becomes morning tea time and so I try one of these beauties. There are two to choose from the Kani Man – crab bun or Kani Jayaga Man – crab and potato bun. I go for the one without potato, it’s warm and yummy and fills me up.
The apples, and peaches are beautifully presented. In the foreground is Outou or yellow peach selling for around AU$4.95 each.
The grapes on the left are known as Shine Muscat. A Japanese cultivated grape which is reportedly low in acidity. Here a bag of them costs around AU$43!
I jump on a tram and head up to the Brickworks a shopping centre with lots of shops selling souvenirs and knick-knacks but for me it’s a look into the supermarket first!
My first stop is the cold items and these scallops in wasabi pique my interest! Hotate Kaibashira come from the Sea of Oshkosh north of Hokkaido – AU$24.
Forget the old Maggi, Nissin or Indomie chicken noodles, there are hundreds of brands and flavours here! Crab, miso, salt, soy… prices here range from around AU$1.34 to AU$2.25 per packet.
Carl Raymon was of German descent who is credited with introducing processed sausages to Japan starting right here in Hakodate. There is also a Carl Raymon restaurant serving up his Thuringer style German sausages in town. These particular sausages are lemon and parsley flavoured and sell for around AU$6.70.
It’s time for lunch and of course I have to have some sashimi platter for one – AU$31. Kingfish, tuna, salmon, prawn, eel and salmon row all make an appearance on this tray and are all equally delicious.
Japan is a wonderful destination for a foodie, fresh, flavoursome and beautifully presented cuisine with some fascinating markets!
While I am not one for watching sport, the Olympic Games is something I do tune into. The swimming, diving, gymnastics and of course the opening and closing ceremonies. It’s wonderful to see the world come together and display such talent.
🇦🇺 Go Australia at Tokyo Olympics 2020/1! 🇦🇺
Thank you to my Sister-in-law Miyuki who helped in the translation of the signage in this post. MattySomewhere travelled to Japan independently.