Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Meet the Local People at the Sunday Market

Just recently, I found out about the Farmer’s Market International Parade hosted by CookingDiva. It’s been a while since I last posted about our Sunday Market, one of Kochi’s major sightseeing attractions, so I decided to jump in. CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE.

As I wrote in my previous post, the Sunday Market in Kochi city has a history of 300 years, and the number of outside stalls along the street (apx. 1.3 km) is said to be over 600 now. This market begins just across the street (well, almost) from the main gate of Kochi castle, so it must have been very convenient for castle employees in the feudal era. It’s so close that I can’t help imagining the feudal lord or his family members sneaking out from the castle once in a while to browse the stalls despite the rigid class system of that time. :)

The Sunday Market is not a regular farmer’s market; in addition to things like plants, fish, fruits and vegetables, they sell antiques, clothes, toys, everyday items and even hermit crabs! This is the place where you see fresh foods and kind smiles on local ojichan and obachan’s faces.

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Coming from the direction of the castle, first you’ll see the stalls of antiques and cutting tools on one side, and those of plants on the other.

All of these patterns are made with 5-yen coins.

Mushroom bed logs and cutting tools.

Ojichan giving advice to female customers.

This is Kochi’s local specialty: imo kempi (deep-fried sweet potato strips with icing). You can see this imo-kempi tower right outside Hirome ichiba.

As I wrote in my previous post, Aisukurin is very popular here in Kochi.

And this is the stall of ever-famous Sunday Market imoten (batter-fried sweet potatoes). Don’t miss the best imoten in Kochi!

Yuzu citrus products. Bottled yuzu vinegar, yuzu miso, yuzu marmalade, seasonings with freeze-dried yuzu rind added, and more…

So many kinds of green tea and herb tea!

Pickles. One of the signs in the right photo says that all of these red pickles were colored with aka-jiso (purple perilla) only, which means, no artificial coloring.

Anpanman lollipops and hermit crabs. I was told that these crabs would make lovely pets… :O

"Lunch break"

Fresh veggies. The vine-like things piled up in the right photo are sweet potato vines. I don’t know about other places, but here in Kochi some people boil them and eat them. They taste quite good when seasoned with dashi, soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin.

Dried fish. Different kinds of baby fish and katsuobushi, another specialty of Kochi.

I’m not sure if she was going to sell what she was cooking, or if it was their lunch…

This obachan asked me to include her in the photo. She was so excited when I told her that the photo was going to be on the internet.

Plum season is just beginning. These green plums are typically used for umeboshi and ume-shu. The tomatoes are what they call “fruit tomatoes” which were bred to improve sweetness. These boxed fruit tomatoes have become a popular souvenir/gift recently, and they can be delivered.

Well, these were just a part of the 600 outside stalls in the market. To fully enjoy the adventurous discoveries, come to our Sunday Market and meet local people! :D Many of them have been selling things here every Sunday since their parents’ generation. The venders are friends to each other, and you can see them chatting with each other and helping each other. When you see an unattended stall, venders at the neighboring stalls will tell you where the stall owner went and when (s)he will be back. Or they might even tell you the price of the goods and where to leave the money instead of the absent stall owner. In fact, this is a good place for visitors (esp. those from Western countries) to see something which is different from their common sense.

I was once told by one of the venders that they have an unspoken rule here which is: keeping a laid-back, almost outdated harmonious atmosphere is very important in this market. Thus, they do not make outrageous efforts to advertise their products to win more customers than neighboring venders. Winning “against” others is not the biggest priority here. For them, this is a place where people who got tired of individualistic competitions can indulge in a nostalgic atmosphere of good old ways in a small countryside. But this explanation just brought some Westerners almost furious: they say that each vender must be wanting to make more money than others, so any kind of creative or loud advertisement should be allowed, because it will create a good competition and as a result will improve the sales of the market as a whole.

Perhaps those Westerners left Kochi pitying conservative and unmotivated locals. But I’m counting on the local folks to keep this laid-back atmosphere for another hundred years or even longer. ;)



Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Thanks for those highly interesting pictures! I loved this virtual tour!...

indosungod said...

great pictures, felt like being there, if only I could grab some of those veggies...

FooDcrazEE said...

interesting....thanx for sharing

Salieri said...

the market looks incredible...farmers markets here aren't nearly so diverse!

i miss sweet potato vines; back in arizona my mom would grow them and pan-fry them with nothing but oil, garlic and a little salt.

thank you so much for sharing!

spajonas said...

what a great tour of your local market! those sweet potato fries with icing look so yummy. and the yuzu!

obachan said...

Thanks for giving me this opportunity. It’s such an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see the final roundup! :D

Yeah, isn’t this virtual tour great?! I never get tired of watching photos of fresh fruits, veggies and fish… in so many different countries!

Fresh veggies are so tempting, aren’t they?

You’re welcome. I think I’m lucky to be able to come to this market every Sunday.

OMG! You eat sweet potato vines, too?! I never ever expected anyone outside Kochi, or Japan to eat them. Thank you for sharing this info! :D

If you love yuzu, you have to come to Kochi someday. It’s yuzu paradise! ;)