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Puffer fish, fish ara* … extra-fish sushi at a keen price! Enjoying the Iki-iki Bakangai at the Karato Market in Shimonoseki.  *leftover bony fish scraps

A special event relishing the sushi of pride at 22 stores

At the very west of Honshu, the main island of Japan, there is Karato Market in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Many leading fish species from favorable fishing grounds such as the Sea of Japan, Seto Inland Sea, East China Sea, gather here in Karato Market. Also, this market is famous for the puffer fishes.
Here, the local fishermen sell their fish directly to their customers, and hold a direct sales store of farm products, which is rare for a district wholesale market. They sell all kinds of food and ingredient.

The scenery of the wholesale market

As many fresh seafood line up, local people and tourists crowd the Karato Market. But especially, Iki-iki Bakangai has tremendous popularity. Many people come to the “sushi battle” held at the market every weekend. What kind of “battle” is Iki-iki Bakangai? Seeing is believing.

The employees are wearing the same caps and uniforms, waiting customers with a bright smile
The most popular sushi menu, “the pacific bluefin tuna head” (one piece 300 Japanese Yen), has a good fatty flesh and it melts in the mouth. The left sushi “Hinomaru” is the skin of fatty tuna, which has a light taste.

“Iki-iki Bakangai is a sushi eating tour event that is held only on weekends and national holidays. We wanted many people to come to the market and enjoy the fresh fish more freely, so we started this event 18 years ago with 3 stores participating.” Mr. Minato, the manager of Bakangai and Minato Shoten told us. Now, 22 stores join this event, and became a featured event known by many people from inside and outside of Japan.

“Our sushi is made from a special rice cooked here.” says Mr. Minato. Every store has their own specialties.

The Bakangai starts at AM9:30 on Saturdays. The stores were already preparing 30 minutes before the opening. Big sushi were showcased by the passage. “Wow!”, “This looks delicious too!” The customers that were here early were already looking at the showcases and determining excitingly which sushi to eat.

A gorgeous puffer fish sushi for 200 Japanese Yen! Various fish line up

At AM9:30, a bell rings to start the event and the customers all head to the stores they have in mind. Some stores made a long line of customers the second they opened.
At the store, you take a tray, choose the sushi you want to eat, and pay at each store. “You should eat what you want bit by bit at various stores. Every store has a specialty; a store specializing in puffer fish, a store featuring tuna, etc. Please talk freely with the employees and choose your favorite store.” Mr. Minato recommended.

As walking around, every store has their own fresh beautiful sushi, and choosing is very hard. “Today’s bargain!”, “Top seller!” labels are written in Chinese, Korean and English. Foreign tourists are rapidly increasing in the past few years and the vigorous callings for customers are full of strength. “The Otoro** is on discount today!”
**the fattiest portion of tuna

Many stores sell puffer fishes, and this is because Shimonoseki catches the most amount of puffer fish in Japan. Sushi are lined up at an affordable price; tuna, shrimp, conger-eel, Japanese eel, horse mackerel, salmon roe. Although using the same ingredient, each store serves them differently; searing, coating sauce, using 2 ingredients.
Both eating the same sushi at different stores, and eating different sushi is good. After filling your tray with favorites, your own sushi assorted dish is complete. This is entertaining and fun. Other than sushi, fried sushi, nitsuke***, and puffer fish soup were served.
***boiling dish with soy sauce

Unique sushi line up

Watching the beautiful ocean and eating fresh sushi is exceptional

On the 1st and 2nd floor of the market, there are tables and chairs making an eat-in space. And there is a vast ocean outside, so on sunny days, eating outside on the bench is a good option. This day, many families and young couples, senior married couples, groups of friends were relishing fruits of the sea outside.
Since most of the dishes are freshly served the day it arrives, the freshness and taste are special. Not only the freshness, but the dishes are served at a keen price. Bite after bite, the excitement and happiness increases.

“Iki-iki Bakangai expects to increase the number of stores participating. Karato Market is an uncommon market which is open for generals, so many Japanese and foreigners visit the market which creates the exciting market. We are thinking of new facilities and events to entertain our visitors, and eventually making a ‘Marine Amusement Park’.” Mr. Minato talks excitingly. The Karato Market is expected to become full of “Omotenashi****” heart.
****Japanese way of hosting and serving guests

Iki-iki Bakangai
Friday/Saturday: AM9:30-PM3:30
Sunday/National Holiday: AM7:00-PM3:30

Karato Market
5-50 Karato-cho, Shimonoseki-shi, Yamaguchi

Telephone: 093-231-0001
Opening hours: AM5:00-PM3:00
Sunday/National Holiday: AM8:00-PM3:00 (depending on stores)
Closed: the beginning of the year, once or twice a month
WEB:http://www.karatoichiba.com/

Writer
Emi Sasaki
Photographer
Tsukasa Kubota
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