If you’re looking for a way to save money while living in Japan, buying produce from local farmers is a surefire way to do just that. Some local supermarkets have a small section devoted to local and/or organic produce (and, depending on the area you live in Japan, the produce may already be local anyway!), but a great way to find it is by visiting a farmer’s market (ファーマーズマーケット) or “morning” market (朝市, あさいち, asaichi).
When I first arrived in Japan, I asked some of my coworkers if there were any farmer’s markets around, and no one really seemed to have any idea. I was told there wasn’t anything like that in the area, so I gave up on the idea, at least until I discovered a farmer’s market store in town.
Fast forward a couple years and I have discovered other ways to get a hold of local (and even organic) produce, and one of the things I love about farmer’s markets is that the produce is often incredibly cheap compared with prices at the grocery store/supermarket. I’ve come away with bags full of fruit and vegetables for around 1000 yen or less. I was even surprised a few weeks ago to see large packages of blueberries at one my local markets, and for much cheaper per weight compared with the small packs at the supermarket. I’m not a blueberry fan, but for those who are, it definitely would be worth taking advantage of.
Of course, you can’t find every type of fruit or vegetable at a farmer’s market, because most of the produce will be whatever is in season and grown in Japan (which isn’t a bad thing at all).
So, here are a few ways you can find a farmer’s market or morning market in your area:
1. Check Asaichi - http://www.asaichi.ne.jp/
This website lists morning markets all over Japan, though it does not include all of them. I believe users submit market information, which is probably why it isn’t comprehensive (yet).
The site is all in Japanese, but isn’t too hard to navigate if you know your location in Japanese.
2. Search for “ファーマーズマーケット” or “朝市” in Google Maps
Try both, as some may come up under one or the other. In my experience this method lists some, but not all.
3. Try a regular online search for “朝市” plus your city/area name in Japanese.
For example, if you live in Yokohama, you would type “朝市 横浜”. I found this method to be quite successful for finding various markets in my area - and I also discovered a map my city provides with a list of all the morning markets in the area.
4. Visit your city’s official website and search for “朝市” or pop over to city hall and ask if they know of any markets in the area. (Example phrase, though there are different ways to ask: “asaichi wa chikaku ni arimasu ka”.
I should mention there is also a possibility to purchase produce or rice from farmers directly, but I’d only recommend this if you speak Japanese well enough to handle on your own, or you know of farmers who speak English well enough. Definitely another great way to support local farmers.
Have you visited a farmer’s market or morning market in Japan? Any other recommendations?