Nantaru Market - Getting to know the food culture of the north through Otaru’s “kitchen”
One day in the middle of January, while snow continued to blanket the north, the Hokkaido Likers Editorial Department headed out for an Otaru market adventure.
We knew that Otaru has a lot of markets, so we asked our taxi driver which one the locals use. He responded, “Nantaru Market is the one you want!” With that, we were off to the Nantaru Market.
The Nantaru Market is a little different from shops souvenir-seekers might normally visit. This market is lined with not just fresh fish stalls but vendors selling vegetables, fruit, meat, prepared dishes, flowers, medicine, and other goods for patrons’ daily needs. It’s as if the city’s entire shopping district can be found all under one roof.
▲ Although it's the market locals frequent for their daily goods, you’ll also find crab, salmon, and other souvenirs that would make great gifts.
Otaru is a port city known for its delicious fish, so of course there is no shortage of fresh seafood at this market. Those who are not from Hokkaido will be surprised to find some fish they’ve maybe never seen before, like Hakkaku (sailfin poacher), or Kajika (sculpin). What’s even better is that it’s all so reasonably priced!
▲ ”Little Red Riding Hood,” one of the shop vendors. She showed us her selection of Kasube (a cut of ray fin), Kajika and a variety of other fresh fish.
▲ Prepared fish cakes and fried scallops, ready to eat!
The market was originally opened in 1938 at a Takasago 1 Chome and, known as the Takasago market then, was an immediate success. Business came to a stop, however, because of the war and didn’t start again until 1949 when it was reopened with a tenement system. In 1950, the South Otaru Market Cooperative** was formed and in 1968, the market building was finally completed. The Nantaru Market we see today, now located at Kawamatsu 2 Chome, has gone unchanged since and has remained an important, beloved part of the community.
** The Japanese characters for South Otaru can be shortened and read as Nantaru, which is where the name of the market comes from.
▲ Shortly after the market reopened (tenement market era)
▲ The finished building for Nantaru Market. At the time, it was praised as the best market in not only Hokkaido, but all of northern Japan.
The market has a very cute mascot character throughout.
▲ This is Nantaru Market’s mascot, Minami chan. She is the creation of a native Otaru manga artist. Each shop has a different Minami chan design board. Be sure to check out all of the different designs throughout the market!
Tourist shops are of course fun, but walking around a community staple like this market will give you the chance to really understand Hokkaido’s food culture and the seasonal food of the north.
The shop owners are all so friendly; we enjoyed talking to them as we shopped. They very kindly answered all of our what’s-this-what’s-that questions and made our experience a lot of fun.
If you go to Otaru, be sure to pop in and visit the Nantaru Market.
■ Nantaru Market
● Days Closed／Sundays
( Hokkaido Likers Writer – Chiba Takako )
( Photography provided by Hokkaido Likers Editorial Department )