Kochi Sunday Market: Japan’s Biggest Open Air Market

This weekly market has been a part of life in Kochi City for well over 300 years. Hundreds of stalls line the road, stretching away from Kochi Castle, and both locals and visitors come to sample the excellent street food, buy fresh produce, or look for houseware and cute crafts.

Find out some of the highlights of “Kochi’s kitchen” and prepare for a fun Sunday of exploring and savoring the flavors of this historical market.

Explore the Market’s 300 stalls

The Sunday Market stretches for 1.3km along a broad, palm tree-lined road, ending right at the foot of Kochi Castle. Every Sunday around 300 stalls line both sides of the road, running from early morning until mid- afternoon.

The atmosphere is festive and friendly. Be sure to go hungry as there is plenty of tempting street food to try, from only-in-Kochi snacks like aisukurin (a local version of sorbet) and inaka-sushi (countryside-style sushi made with preserved veggies), to favorites like grilled yakitori chicken skewers and other fried delights.

As you nibble away, check out the stalls selling everything from fresh fruit, vegetables and sweets, to things like bonsai, high-quality kitchen knives, crafts and more! Most of what you see for sale has been grown or made in Kochi. Often the sellers themselves grew or crafted their wares, and are happy to show off the fruits of their labor.

Here are a few highlights of Kochi’s Sunday Market, to make sure you don’t miss any of the fun!

1) Street Food Heaven

Spending a Sunday wandering between the many stalls while sampling all the tasty nibbles available for sale is must for any visitor to Kochi City. Discovering what is on offer each week is part of the fun, but here are a few popular foods to keep an eye out for.

Imo-ten : while exploring you are sure to see people snacking on bags of freshly fried, bite-size sweet potato tempura. The stall is easy to spot, as there is a constant line of foodies waiting to buy this popular treat. With a crispy exterior that melts into a light and fluffy texture on the inside, these may well be the best sweet potatoes you ever eat!

Inaka-sushi : this “countryside-style” sushi is a firm local favorite. Unlike traditional sushi, which is usually heavily fish-based, the Kochi version is made with preserved and pickled vegetables and fried tofu pockets. Instead of vinegar, the rice is flavored with yuzu juice, giving it a refreshing citrusy kick. Inaka-sushi is usually sold in packs, making it ideal for sharing.

Obanyaki : the sweet smell of these small pancake-like treats filled with yuzu marmalade is sure to draw you toward the stall. Watch your obanyaki being made, and eat it still warm off the hotplate!

Aisukurin : particularly nice on a hot day, aisukurin is a dairy-based sorbet unique to Kochi. This delightfully retro treat comes in a variety of flavors and is somewhere between ice cream and sorbet. It is thought to have originated in the late 1800s, when ice cream was first introduced to Japan.

Juices and drinks : wet your whistle with drinks made using locally grown yuzu and buntan citrus fruit or ginger. Ginger ale made with local Tosa ginger has a great spicy kick!

There are also plenty of traditional sweets like manju confections and mochi rice dumplings, grilled meats and fish on skewers, homemade pickles (and more!) to try.

2) Check Out Local Produce

There is always an abundance of fresh seasonal produce brightening the market stalls, but be sure to look for the vibrant red “fruit tomatoes.” First produced in Kochi, the fruit tomato is so-called due to its tantalizing sweetness. Juicy and with just the right amount of acidity, these delicious tomatoes are sold year round, and some stalls sell them as snacks.

Kochi is also Japan’s biggest ginger producing area, so you are likely to see the large roots for sale (or used to flavor drinks and snacks). In Japan the prefecture is also synonymous with buntan (similar to a grapefruit) and yuzu, a smaller citrus fruit often used in cooking. Bottles of freshly squeezed citrus are a favorite with visitors, who then add a splash to drinks and dishes once back home. Keep an eye out for Kochi-grown tea, which comes from the misty banks of the Shimanto River and Niyodo River.

There are sure to be intriguing ingredients that you have never seen before, like ryukyu, a green stalk that can grow to over a meter in length and produces huge, umbrella-sized leaves. It is used in a variety of local dishes, including inaka-sushi.

3) Only-in-Kochi Shopping

While the Sunday Market offers a huge range of local produce and tasty treats, there is more to the market than just food. You can find stalls offering handicrafts like Tosa coral earrings, wooden coasters carved with intricate patterns, and hand-forged Tosa kitchen knives, a 400-year old craft of the region. Bags made from repurposed kimono and vibrant fishing boat flags, mini bonsai trees, and hand-carved wooden masks are just some of the more traditional handicrafts available.

However, there are also plenty of modern options for gifts and souvenirs, like homemade jams and pickles, dried fruit and Kochi-grown green tea. Take your time walking through the Sunday Market and see what great finds you can pick up!

Other Great Markets to Visit in Kochi

There are several other regular markets that take place in Kochi City:

Tuesday Market
Around 40 stalls set up on boards laid over an old water conduit. Stretching for about 250m, you can shop while enjoying the rather unique setting.
Hours: 6:00am until an hour before sunset
Place: 4~5 chome, Kamimachi, Kochi City

Thursday Market
The second largest market after the Sunday Market. Around 70 stalls line up in the Kencho-mae business district.
Hours: Sunrise to an hour before sunset  
Place: Kencho-mae, Kochi City

Friday Market
A street market with a strong local feel, held under a railway viaduct.
Hours: Sunrise to an hour before sunset
Place: 1 chome, Atagomachi, Kochi City

Kochi Organic Market (Ike Park Saturday Market)
This market offers chemical-free produce, additive-free foods, and crafts made using natural materials. About 50 stalls gather in a tree-filled park.
Hours: 8:00am to 2:00pm (until 12:00pm in July and August)
Place: Kochi Ike Park, 2311-1 Ike, Kochi City

For those venturing toward the town of Kuroshio, there is another monthly market to visit:

Sunday Seaside Market - Open on the 2nd Sunday of the month
Local produce, homemade foods and handicrafts are on offer. Sometimes they hold live music events and picture book storytelling.
Hours: 9:00am to 2:00pm
Place: 388 Irino, Kuroshio Town (next to the Tosa Seinan Daikibo Park Gymnasium)