My last stop on this walk around Osaka was Kuromon Ichiba (黒門市場), the city’s venerable food market in Nipponbashi, Naniwa Ward. Kuromon is situated in a covered shōtengai with its north and west entrances opening right above Nipponbashi Station on the municipal subway Sakaisuji Line and Sennichimae Line, as well as Kintetsu-Nipponbashi Station on the Kintetsu Namba Line.
The market was formally established in 1902 as Enmei-ji Ichiba (圓明寺市場), which referred to a large Buddhist temple in the area at that time but destroyed by fire in 1912. “Kuromon” was a common name given by denizens of the market, which referred to the temple’s large black main gate, and it is this name that is used exclusively today. Kuromon’s roots as a fish merchant market are still readily apparent, as this makes up roughly half of the 180 vendors in the shōtengai. Kuromon now caters to professional chefs and businesses, as well as the general public. Besides fish, there are other foodstuffs and some dry goods for sale, and more recently an uptick in prepared foods and cafes catering to casual visitors and tourists.
The south entrance is set back from the main road, behind a mess of delivery trucks, utility poles and wires. The steel and blue awning, strung lights and lanterns give the scene a feel of a hidden portal into a nighttime carnival. Compared with a posh renovated space like the Chelsea Market in Manhattan, the whole thing is gritty and unpretentious, and I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.
The merchant mix changes subtly as you move through the market. To the south, there are more fish and raw material shops that focus on business to business transactions, so these begin to close up in the late afternoon, as restaurant purchasing managers and chefs have long since been through for the day. The closer you get to Nipponbashi Station, prepared foods and daily conveniences become more dense, targeting commuters on the way home for the evening.
Large sea creatures suspended from the roof of the arcade are a flamboyant touch reminiscent of nearby Dōtonbori, something few self-respecting shōtengai or markets in Tokyo would be caught dead with! This is Osaka, where the general consensus is that life it too short to take some matters so seriously.
Some restaurants in the intersecting side streets have outdoor tent seating, giving the feeling of a yatai.
Anyone feeling brave enough to take home and cook their own fugu?
The closer to the subway station, the more polished and consumer oriented the displays become.
This is a very Osaka thing, the bicycle handlebar clamp for holding your umbrella. While I don’t imagine that this keeps you all that dry after a ride through the rain, other than perhaps one’s head and shoulders, I admire the can-do spirit of the invention. While many in developed countries have since turned to the comfort and security of the automobile against the elements, Osaka shows us there is an alternative mindset.
In a strong community, shop proprietors aren’t anonymous employees that come and go, they’re people you know by name and who may have watched multiple generations grow up in their midst.
Official website: http://www.kuromon.com/
After two visits, I still feel that I’ve only just scratched the surface of Osaka. There are great markets and other public spaces all over the city, including some underground shopping centers and transit concourses, that I’d like to look at on my next trip. At a deeper level, I love that walking around the city feels like putting on an old, comfortable coat. Not overly concerned with constantly refreshing to keep up with the latest designs and fashion, the realm of public space emphasizes being useful, safe, honest and friendly above all other things. I will be back.