Nijo Market is a well-known fish market in central Sapporo which is popular for both its fresh seafood restaurants and for its colorful stalls which are heaped with displays of crab, salmon, tuna, sea urchin, salmon roe, and shellfish. Nicknamed “Sapporo’s Public Kitchen”, the market’s convenient location has made it popular with both local citizens, and also tourists who come here to buy fresh seafood souvenirs, to photograph impressive displays of crab and other marine products, and to enjoy a meal or a drink in one of the many restaurants and eateries located inside the market.
Several restaurants are located among the seafood stores along the market’s arcades. However, the main dining area is called Noren Yokocho (or “Curtain Alley”) and here you will find a variety of small restaurants, bars and casual eateries offering fresh seafood snacks and meals. Many of these restaurants and eateries are prepared for international tourists and have English language menus to help you choose your preferred dish. The most popular dish is kaisendon, a bowl of rice topped with your choice of fresh sashimi, but sushi is also a popular choice. Many of the seafood stores with their shop front stalls also have a sit-down area inside where you can enjoy some fresh scallops, crab, or oysters which can be cooked up for you right on the spot.
Nijo Market has roofed arcades which makes it a pleasant location for shopping even on a rainy day. On sunny days, the arcades are hung with noren curtains to protect the seafood from the heat of the sun, and the ultramarine color of these noren is a distinctive feature of this market. From the arcade roof hang ball-shaped lights hung in netting; these are made from the glass floats fishermen once used to keep their nets from sinking.
Although Nijo Market’s stores all keep their own opening times, most stores open in the early morning from around 8.00 onward, and they begin to pull down their shutters in the early evening until around 18.00. Most stores display and sell fresh Hokkaido seafood bought the same day from the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market, however some stores also sell fruit and vegetables, local beverages, and even souvenir sweets.
Nijo Market History
The roots of Nijo Market date back over a hundred years to the early years of the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) when fishermen who had been fishing in Ishikari Bay, would sail up the Ishikari River into Sapporo in order to sell their fish. At that time there were just 13 shops in this area along the Soseigawa Canal which was known as Uomachi or “Fish Town”. This early market was actually located on the west of the Soseigawa Canal, but over time it spread over to the east side which is its current location. The whole area was destroyed by a fire in 1902, but a fish market was gradually rebuilt along the Soseigawa Canal’s east side with many small stores and restaurants providing the basis for today’s market. Prior to World War 2 the market was known as the Chuo Ichiba or “Central Market”, but after the war Nijo Ichiba or “Nijo Market” became its established name. The market’s current arcade building was completed in 1993, and the main restaurant area, which is called “Noren Yokocho” was added in 2007.
Tourist Information Center & Tax Exemption
A new Tourist Information Center was opened close by Nijo Market in 2020. Multilingual staff in the Tourist Information Center can give advice on which stores or restaurants you may want to visit in the market, and it is also possible to book a guided tour of the market here. A variety of souvenirs and gifts are also on sale at the information center.
In addition, several stores in Nijo Market offer a consumption tax exemption on goods sold to overseas visitors. If you spend 5,000 yen or more in these stores you can take your receipts to the Tourist Information Center and complete the tax exemption procedure to claim your tax refund. Stores offering a tax exemption are clearly marked with Tax-Free Shopping signs. You can find the Tourist Information Center a short walk to the north of Nijo Market’s main area on the 2nd floor of the Salmon Building.
Nijo Market is a 4-minute walk south of Bus Center-Mae Station on the Tozai Subway Line and a 10-minute walk south-east of Odori Station on the Tozai, Toho, and Namboku subway lines. This area is also convenient for Odori Park, Sapporo TV Tower, the Susukino District and Tanukikoji Shopping Street.
Other Markets in Sapporo
Nijo Market’s central location makes it very easy to access. However, Sapporo has a number of other markets that are worth a visit if you have the time.
Sapporo Central Wholesale Market Tours
The general public cannot visit or shop inside Sapporo Central Wholesale Market, but it is possible to arrange a Japanese language tour of the market between 5.00 and 16.00. If you can arrange a tour, then it is recommended that you visit in the early morning to see the lively seafood auction (between 5.15 and 6.30) or the fruit and vegetable auction (between 6.30 and 7.30).
Tours take around 90 minutes and should be booked at least 2 days in advance for individual tours (up to 9 people) or 10 days in advance for group tours (10 or more people). Tours should be booked in Japanese by telephone (011-611-3176) or fax (011-611-3179). When making a tour reservation please supply your name, contact telephone number, the desired date and time of your tour, the number of people in your tour group, and your means of transportation to the market. Tours are not available on Sundays, holidays, when the market is closed, or during busy periods such as between December 4th and January 4th.
Sapporo Curb Market
Sapporo Curb Market (Sapporo Jogai Shijo) is a market for the general public which is directly connected to Sapporo Central Wholesale Market. Here around 60 retail stores and restaurants sell the marine produce that has been auctioned each morning in the wholesale market. The Curb Market is also known as the “Outer Market” or as “Sapporo Crab Market” because of the huge quantity of cheap, high quality crab that is on sale, but there is a wide range of other seafood products on sale here too.
Similar to Nijo Market, kaisendon seafood rice bowls are a popular breakfast dish at the Curb Market’s restaurants. Stores begin to open from 6.00 and restaurants from 7.00 and the market closes down around 17.00. Sapporo Curb Market is 14 minutes on foot from JR Soen Station on the Gakuentoshi Line and Hakodate Main Line and 9 minutes from Nijuyon-Ken Station on the Tozai Subway Line.
Hakko Gakuen Farm Market
Hakko Gakuen Farm Market is a farmer’s market connected to Hokkaido Agricultural Technical College selling fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. During the warmer months, from late April to early fall, soft serve ice cream is a very popular product here.
From April 24th to early November the market is open every day except Thursday between 10.00 and 17.00. From mid-November to Mid-April the market closes at 16.00 and is only open on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Hakko Gakuen Farm Market is a 7-minute walk from Fukuzumi Station on the Toho Subway Line.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos by Michael Lambe, grand/pixta (6), mataro/pixta (7). All rights reserved.