Visiting Yanagibashi Rengo Ichiba: The Fukuoka Fish Market

  While staying in Fukuoka, it’s definitely worth taking the time to visit Yanagibashi Market, also known as “Fukuoka’s Kitchen.” While not as big as the world’s largest fish market, Tsukiji, in Tokyo, it is easily as entertaining and less crowded to boot! Read our article to find out more.

How to get to the Fukuoka Fish Market

Yanagibashi Market is one of the most popular fish markets in all of Fukuoka Prefecture and sits in the Chuo Ward of Fukuoka City. It’s popularly known as “Fukuoka’s Kitchen” because of its abundance of fresh fish that attracts many chefs from around the city. Here you can buy a variety of fresh catches, from the easy-to-get salmon, to the hard-to-find and always-controversial whale. Its 47 shops include butchers, fish stores, greengrocers, and more. Getting to the market is a 15-minute walk from JR Hakata Station, or you can take the Nishitetsu Bus and get off at the Yanagibashi bus stop adjacent to the arcade. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (varies by shop) and is closed on Sundays and national holidays. If you get there late in the afternoon close to closing time you will be sure to score some sweet discounts. Be sure to remember that the shops at Yanagibashi Market are cash only.

Fukuoka Seafood Specialties and When They’re in Season

When it comes to specialty food, Fukuoka is most popularly known for its Hakata-style ramen. However, it’s also popular for its abundance of fresh fish transported daily to its shores from the Genkai Sea and the Sea of Japan. The rich plankton fields near Tsushima, Iki, and Goto Islands attract a wide variety of fish that are ultimately destined for the Yanagibashi Market. Karashi mentaiko, spicy cod roe, is a specialty seafood item shipped from Fukuoka to households across Japan. Slowly marinated in chili pepper sauce, it’s usually served with rice, over spaghetti, or spread on pizza. It’s a popular custom in Japan to bring sweets or souvenirs back with you when traveling, and karashi mentaiko is the most popular and most requested item when visiting Fukuoka. The great thing about karashi mentaiko is that it’s available every season of the year and isn’t freshest when bought in Fukuoka’s Kitchen. Another popular seafood specialty in Fukuoka, Itoshima city specifically, is oyster. In Itoshima, oysters are harvested in March by tying empty shells with baby oysters to ropes and submerging them under water. The mature oysters are then fetched in late October and distributed to the many oyster huts that line Itoshima’s shoreline. Between the end of October and late March you will find oyster huts called kakigoya throughout Itoshima. In these huts that look like long tents, you can barbeque the freshest oysters your mouth will have the privilege of ever tasting. Fugu, or blowfish, the infamous fish with poison flowing through its internal organs, can be found around the island of Kyushu. As many Westerners may know from pop culture, only chefs with a special license can prepare fugu because of the dangers associated with its preparation. This creates an exciting and thrilling experience with every bite, since it could very well be your last (cue in the ominous background music)! Fugu season is between October and March, but the best time for living dangerously is from December to February (the coldest months are best for fugu). Other seafood specialties found in Fukuoka are live squid sashimi, gyoroke (deep fried fish paste balls), abuttekamo (fried whole fish), angler, and saw edged perch.

Specialty Shops in Yanagibashi Market

There are quite a few specialty shops in the Yanagibashi Market. While Yanagibashi is known for its fresh fish, it also has a popular butcher shop called Oniku no Hanshin Meat. The shop mostly provides sliced pork and beef in either cut or minced meat. Since it’s the only meat store in the market it’s not hard to miss. Sakamoto Nori-ten specializes in various types of nori, better known as dried seaweed in English. The store provides a variety of seaweed including different seasoning, texture, and sizes. Some of the seaweed you might find here is sealed in airtight plastic bags or containers, while others are concealed in souvenir boxes with decorative wrapping. Takamatsu no Kamaboko is a shop that specializes in kamaboko. If you have ever had a bowl of ramen and wondered what the pink and white thing floating with your noodles was, well that would be kamaboko. It’s a Japanese processed seafood product that consists of various pureed white fish. It’s made into paste, formed into loaves, and finally steamed until it’s completely cooked. There are a variety of kamaboko, most popular being the imitation crabmeat, sarimi, found in the ubiquitous Western take on sushi, the California Roll. Takamatsu no Kamaboko also sells various fish paste balls and other pureed fish products popular in Japan. With all the fish products you’ll be consuming on your visit, you might want to chase it down with a glass of wine or hot tea. If that is the case, there are two specialty shops that have just what you’re looking for. Fukuoka Wine Club is like stepping out of an Asian fish market and into a small European wine cellar. The store has a variety of wine sourced from different locations around the world. Meanwhile, Ezakiseicha-en is a teashop with traditional Japanese teas, along with a few Chinese teas as well. Either shop will be sure to relax your taste buds from the wasabi-laced soy sauce used for your sashimi.

Yanagibashi Rengo Ichiba’s Most Famous Snack

In Japan, few things capture the essence of fall more than tenshin amaguri, or sweet roasted chestnuts in English. Vendors on the streets throughout Japan sell roasted chestnuts to people as they pass by on a brisk autumn day. Thankfully, just next to the Yanagibashi Market along the riverside is Amaguri-ya, a specialty store that sells tenshin amaguri all year round. Tako Shougetsu sells a variety of sweets, but mostly all consist of mochi. Mochi is made from rice that has been pounded into paste and molded into a small cake. This rice cake comes in many different Japanese flavors, styles, and ingredients, such as bean paste, sesame, strawberry, or wrapped delicately in a sakura leaf. Tako Shougetsu is located in the center of Yanagibashi Market and is a nice place to stop for a quick break from all the fish you will be encountering.