In Okinawa, fish market is life. Okinawa has a fair amount of people rely on fishing for a living. Their harvest fuels a countless number of izakayas, restaurants, fish product factories in the south Japan region.
Life in a fish market starts around 4 A.M. when the first fishing boat docks. Two hours later, wholesale market starts, and buyers from all over Okinawa will gather at the port while the first sunlight of the day appears at the horizon. At 8 A.M., the wholesale market closes and the market starts to prepare for the retail market. From 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. (5 P.M. in winter), people from all over the island will visit the fish market to eat or take out a piece of fresh daily catch.
Visiting a fish marketing in Okinawa is an unique experience. Not only you get to pick your fish, choose your way to prepare your meal, you can also get a front-row seat to watch the experienced chef and kitchen staff disassemble and prepare your fish. If you are the type of person who enjoys fresh cut sashimi in quantity, eating in an “authentic” environment where the smell of fish gut is filled in the air, dining at the fish market is for you.
There are a number of fish markets in Okinawa, each features something different but they all have something in common. All of them sell fresh daily catches. The earlier you go in the morning, the more options you have. You can sample a little bit of everything for a small price, or you can pick a whole fish from the pile. You can buy pre-packages sashimi, some markets even allow you to choose how you want the chef to prepare your fish. If you don’t know what is the best way, they usually let you choose sashimi (raw fish slice) or deep-fried in garlic butter.
Here I want to highlight a few unique fish markets in Okinawa and what to look for in these places.
Naha Tomari Fish Market
This is a small market compared to others on this list, it has probably the most varieties and you get the most bang of your bucks. Tourists come here, the locals also shop here. You can sample small plates, or buy in bulk. The only downside of this place is there no seating area and there isn’t much space outside for picnicking. I suggest you get your food as take-out and find a nearby beach or park to enjoy it. If you don’t mind standing while you are eating, make sure you bring a bag for trash because there is no a single trash can in the market.
Itoman Fish Market
This location is all about sampling. You can buy as small as one slice of sashimi, or a grilled squid on a stick. There is a large farmers market and a food court next to it with lot of seating, so you can enjoy different types of local eats. Though the market closes at 4:00pm, but be sure to go before 1:00pm or there isn’t much good stuff left.
Awase Fish Market
This market is directly connected to the first port. Fish daily catches comes in at 4:00am in the morning. Whole seller auctions take place from 6:00-8:00am, and the rest of the catch goes to the fish market and the on-site restaurant. The cool thing about this market is that customers can pick any fish from the tank and pay a small fee (¥600-¥1000) for the kitchen to prepare for your immediate enjoyment. The popular way of preparing a fish in Okianwa are sashimi, fish miso soup, and deep friend in butter.
Nago Fish Port
This is a family diner-style restaurant as an attachment to the fish port. Here you order from the menu. Everything is cooked, and everything is delicious. I recommend the local delicacy squid ink soup for the foodies.
Oujima Fish Port
A small fish market with on a small island in southern Okinawa. This small island is known for its tempura stores and the fishing town lifestyle. Many people come to visit and enjoy fresh seafood here. The market also offers glass boat rides to see the nearby coral reef.
This is item No. 26 on the Okinawa Bucket List. What is Okinawa Bucket List?
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