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Feast your senses

Feast your senses

at Fukuoka's bustling fresh food market

Tanga Market - Kitakyushu,Fukuoke prefecture

The shopping area in Kokurakita-ku in Kitakyushu which extends mainly around JR Kokura station. In one corner of that is an area that is steeped in a retro Showa ambiance. As befits the kitchen of Kitakyushu, Tanga Market bustles with large numbers of visitors every day. In each store, there are seasonal vegetables and marine species, meats and prepared dishes amongst other goods. Daigakudo’s Daigakudon, which lets you eat a rice bowl topped with fresh foodstuffs selected from inside the market, is also popular. Let’s not waste anytime and let’s go walking around the bustling market.

Lively conversations fill the air in front of fresh seasonal items and famous dishes.

“These shrimp are delicious even if you just deep-fry them plain!”

The staff at the fishmonger’s call out vigorously to the woman looking at the shrimp at the front of the shop. From 11 AM to 1 PM is when Tanga Market is at its most bustling. Conversations between the customers and shop owners standing at their storefronts filled with an array of fresh seasonal items gathered from every land fill the air, sometimes interrupted by the sounds of laughter. You can feel the vigor and vitality of the market firsthand. When you walk around you will by astounded by the abundant types of foodstuffs, the high level of freshness and the reasonableness of the prices. This is indeed a market worthy of being called the kitchen of Kitakyushu.

The nostalgic, powerful taste of Kokura’s famous “Nukadaki”

“There are currently approximately 90 stores inside the market. The specialty shops each having their particular strengths are distinct. Not only is the assortment of items wide-ranging, there are also items that can only be obtained here,” says the chairman of the Tanga Market Shopping District Association, Mr. Yoshiro Kurose. “If you come over and over again you will come to understand the charms of each store, no doubt about it” says he with a forceful tone. Mr. Kurose runs a meat shop selling items such as skewers and croquettes, called “Kashiwaya-Kurose.” At the shopfront of “Hyakunendoko Usami” are little mountain-like piles of Nukadaki made with mackerels and sardines. Nukadaki is a local dish from Kokura that is said to have begun in the Edo Period, and is made with blueback fish boiled in seasoning and finished by boiling after adding nukadoko (salted rice bran paste for pickling). The flesh and even the bones are tender, and there is a salty-sweet taste of nukadoko. The powerful flavor that comes from the nukadoko has been passed down through three generations over the span of 100 years.

The market continues to develop even as it maintains its retro Showa ambiance

“Tanga Market” is said to have begun around 1913 to 1914 when a Denmabune (small boat for transporting cargo) unloaded its cargo of sardines from the Genkai Sea on the banks of the Kantakegawa river and started selling them. Shops selling fruits and vegetables soon began to gather one after another, expanding the market and turning it into the kitchen of Kokura. The inside of the market which drips with the ambience of the Showa Period still contains long-established shops, where third or fourth generation shop owners still ply their trade dating back to the origins of the market. On the other hand, there are also newer shops catering to the tastes of young people where you can experience fresh and exciting moods. On the 1st of each month (Monday or Tuesday if the 1st is a Sunday/Closed on the 1st of January), the “Food City Festival” is held. At shops displaying a “Walk around and eat from a sample cup” sign, you can purchase as a many foodstuffs as will fit in the cup for a very reasonable price and walk around as you enjoy your selection.

An original rice bowl made with toppings that catch your eye from the foodstuffs available inside the market

Daigakudo is a shop started 10 years ago by students and staff of the University of Kitakyushu, a place where all kinds of people come together for a chat, a “Rest stop” for the city. Even now around 15 students from the University are standing in the shop tending to the visitors in between their lessons. Moeko Inomata is one of those people. “People ask the shop staff about how to cook foodstuffs they are unfamiliar with, they get them to tell them how to clean the fish…. From the point of view of us young people, this market is the place to find all the tasty delights of the season” she says, explaining the attraction of the market. The most popular item at Daigakudo is the “Daigakudon.” The system involves placing white rice ordered for 200 yen at Daigakudo into a bowl, and purchasing foodstuffs in the market to top the rice. According to Ms. Inomata, the popular foodstuffs are the Nukadaki, skewers, tempura, and grilled Nambanzuke style whale. Daigakudon is an original whose taste you can only imagine until you actually take a bite. The taste remains in the memory along with the beaming faces of the people encountered in the market.


■ The smart way to enjoy the market

1. Do not try to haggle.
Right off the bat, the products are suitably priced and you will find them reasonable. “No haggling” is the rule.

2. Take your trash with you.
Sample cups that you may receive when walking around trying the items should be taken back to the store you received them from.

3. When taking a photograph of a storefront, be sure to also ask the shop on the opposite side for permission of doing so.
The road is narrow, so when taking a photograph with a camera or smartphone, take care not to interfere with the sales of other shops.

There is no uniform closing day for the entire market. The closing day varies from store to store.
Report cooperation provided by Tanga Market Shopping Arcade, Daigakudo

Tanga Market Office
4-2-18 Uomachi, Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture
TEL: 092-521-4140

4-4-20 Uomachi, Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture
TEL: 080-6458-1184
Closed Wednesday, Sundays and Public Holidays

Note: Some stores mentioned in this article have since closed or relocated due to a fire that occurred in 2022.

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