Hokkaido is famous for having some of the best seafood in Japan. And as Hokkaido has the freshest and highest quality for some types of seafood, it could arguably said to be a seafood gourmand’s heaven. For those looking for the some of the best fresh seafood rice bowls, steamed crabs and sashimi in the world, it’s hard to beat the Nijo Ichiba Seafood Market.
Located just across the Soseigawa Park to the East of the Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade, the market takes up a 4 block area with dozens of shops selling fresh, frozen and dried seafood, as well as restaurants where you can sample that morning’s catch. This is a great place to purchase seafood for that night’s dinner, or to have a box of frozen seafood sent home after your visit to Sapporo. Many of the local merchants offer airfreight shipping by frozen container, so you can have your purchases sent to your home country. Some shops here have been open for more than 100 years, since the early days of Sapporo city.
There are over 40 shops packed into the 4 blocks, with the ones located around the East and North streets featuring open store fronts covered by an overhead awning. Decorative nets and lights are strung from the awning giving one the feeling of being at the sea, and the seafood is lovingly laid out on displays of pristine, gleaming ice. The sights and colors of the seafood alone make for a beautiful sight, and the meticulously cleaned market has none of the odor one might usually associate with a seafood market. The inner shops are accessed by narrow alleyways that are packed full of all sorts of wares, and the little shops right next to each other present a cheerful bustle that is an experience in itself, remaining essentially unchanged for the past century.
Located deep within the market and along some of the side streets to the East side are small sushi counter restaurants that serve up seafood rice bowls to the many tourists. Although prices reflect the premium quality of the seafood and location in a tourist attraction, there are reasonably priced dishes to be found if one searches for them. The average price of a deluxe seafood rice bowl piled high with uni, ikura, salmon sashimi and crab meat is around 2,500 yen, but it’s definitely worth it! For the budget conscious delicacies like salmon sashimi rice bowls can be had for just under 1,000 yen.
The market opens at 05:00 and closes around 17:00. It’s a great place for an authentic Japanese seafood lunch, or a dinner of grilled fish and beer or sake. Some of the most popular items in the market are Hokkaido salmon, uni (sea urchin roe), ikura (salmon roe) and Hokkaido snow crab and taraba gani crab. In recent years the market has been especially popular with tour groups from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. To cater to this market a lot of signage has been translated into Chinese. You can also find a small amount of English signage. The store proprietors don’t speak very much English, but they’re extremely welcoming and will do their best to communicate using beautifully photographed pictures of their wares.
The market is very easily accessed by walking through the Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade and across Sosei River Park, and is only about 5 – 10 minutes walk from the main street of Ekimae Dori, Odori Park, Sapporo TV Tower, and the Susukino shopping district. In winter it’s possible to get here almost completely out of the elements by walking from Sapporo Station underground through the Sapporo Underground Walkway, Poletown, and then through Tanuki Koji.
This post is also available in: Japanese