Sapporo City, Hokkaido Prefecture - Hokkaido
Head north to Japan’s largest prefecture to discover a land of wide-open skies, clear air, and unspoiled beauty. The last part of Japan to be developed, the island remains close to nature and is a top destination for outdoor-sports enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those who just need to get away from it all.
Hokkaido’s cold, snowy winters make for incredible skiing, while its warm, dry summers are a welcome escape from the humidity that descends onto much of the rest of Japan. But the real draw for many is the incredible seafood, whose variety and flavor are unrivaled. See—and sample—all that the island has to offer at Nijo Market, located in the prefecture’s capital of Sapporo.
Even if you have already been to Tokyo’s Toyosu Fish Market, this is sure to be an exciting new frontier in seafood.
Hokkaido’s Premier Fish Market
King crab, salmon roe, scallops—if your mouth waters just reading those words, then you’re in for a treat. Sapporo’s Nijo Market, located within walking distance of the city’s downtown, is home to twenty-four shops that deal in everything from the freshest sashimi and dried Okhotsk atka mackerel to Hokkaido’s famous Yubari melon and other agricultural products.
Sate your appetite for seafood by spending a day exploring the market, conversing with friendly fishmongers, and tasting the best of Hokkaido’s ocean harvest.
Rise Early and Be Rewarded
Nijo Market opens at around 7:00 a.m., with individual shops having their own hours. You’ll find high-quality food all day long in the market and evening-only eateries along the narrow alley of Noren Yokocho—but for the best of the best, an early start is key.
Begin the day with breakfast at Nijo Ichiba Oiso, located in the fish market. The shop’s menu includes over thirty kinds of kaisen don, a one-bowl meal of seasoned rice topped with seafood. Possible toppings include blue king crab and tuna, but if you crave variety, opt for the popular Sanshoku Donburi for a colorful meal of salmon roe, sea urchin, and red king crab on rice.
From early in the day, the market bustles with locals looking for the best deal on the freshest food. Indeed, Nijo Market acts as a large chilled pantry for the residents of Sapporo as well as for the area’s restaurants.
It’s been an area landmark for years, with roots in the early Meiji period (1868-1912). It was at that time when fishermen began to bring their catches from Ishikari Bay up the river to sell. A casual system evolved into an association of thirteen shops, and from those thirteen, the market was born.
Be Brave and Dive in!
Begin your journey into the market at Zentsu Kondo Noboru Shoten, where tables heavy with crab and salmon roe crowd the shopfront. The interior of the shop is an eatery called Keiran, and if you buy a crab from Zentsu, you can ask to have it prepared immediately so that you can eat it inside straight away. It doesn’t get fresher than that!
Find scallops at Hasegawa Noren Shoten, whose staff will tell you that when it comes to scallops, the more you chew, the tastier they get. Expect friendly advice and chatter from staff across the market, and feel free to ask for advice if something catches your eye but you’re unsure how to prepare it—or even what it is!
Continue along through the market, and stop to have a look at Ikeda Shoten, where among other seafood, you’ll see blocks of sashimi-grade Pacific bluefin tuna, scallops, whelks, and Sakhalin surf clams.
Crab is king in Hokkaido, and the crustacean is the hallmark of Honma Sengyoten, where surprisingly large samples of the delicacy are available for tasting. It’s all about letting customers know that what they are about to buy is the best.
Browse Bounty from the Land as well as Sea
In Hokkaido, fruits of the field are as esteemed as fruits of the sea. Rice, wheat, potatoes, and a variety of vegetables are cultivated and shipped across Japan from the prefecture’s many farms. Most famous of the prefecture’s produce, however, are the Yubari melon and the Hokkaido asparagus.
Find both of these highly desired products seasonally at Kotobukiya Marukoshi Shoten, a farmers market. During melon season, which generally runs from May until December, pick up a package of cut melon for an after-shopping snack.
End your visit to Nijo Market on a sweet note with yet another of Hokkaido’s celebrated products: ice cream. At Oguma Shoten, a fairly new addition to the market that specializes in kaisen don, you’ll find soft-serve made in Hokkaido which makes for the perfect pick-me-up after a morning of exploration regardless of the weather.
Hokkaido is a land of plenty, and much of its bounty can be found in Nijo Market. Journey to Sapporo, and discover the savory riches of Japan’s northernmost prefecture.