Smiling man in chef's whites
Japan,  Just One Person,  Street photography,  Travel galleries

Gallery: a visit to Takayama’s morning market

Takayama is a mountain town, and the river that runs through it, the Miyagawa, is a clear mountain one. Every morning on its banks stall-holders set out their wares at the town’s famous morning market, in a long-held tradition.

There has been a market on this spot for sixty years; although records show that it was originally held close to the Takayama Betsuin Shourenji temple, starting in the Edo Period (early 17th – mid 19th centuries). At its peak it is said to have had over 300 stalls but today it is usually between 50 and 70.

I have seen this reviewed as a ‘tourist trap’ but I have to disagree. Yes, tourists come, but it was also clear to me that locals were here too, shopping for (mostly) fruit and vegetables and enjoying a gossip with friends whom they met along the way. I loved our time here and it was a photographer’s dream!

I always enjoy visiting a good colourful market anywhere I travel, as it is usually a great place to take photos and mix with the local people. One man in particular caught my eye, because of his obvious enjoyment and enthusiasm. He was selling packets of traditional sweets, beautiful wrapped as is the Japanese way. This man knew how to sell, engaging passers-by with a smile and lively conversation. Just one person from around the world, just one of many in this market in fact, but very memorable.

Smiling man in chef's whites
Just one person from around the world

But the whole visit to the market was made especially enjoyable by the Japanese willingness to be photographed. I took so many photos of the characterful faces, interesting food products and local crafts.

Of course, being a market, it’s also good place to shop! I bought some delicious sesame crunch sweets at one stall which modestly advertised its wares as being nothing much to look at but worth tasting with a sign that read:

‘Also the wife, the husband and confectionery which are NOT chosen by appearance.’

And this is a great place for snacking. Lots of the stalls sell little treats such as soy bean dumplings and sweets of all kinds. There’s a tea stall if you need warming up on what might be a chilly morning (remember, this is a mountain town) and the local Hida apples are huge and justifiably famous for their flavour.

So please, enjoy a wander around this colourful market with me …

I visited Takayama in 2013

19 Comments

  • wetanddustyroads

    Yes, you’re absolutely right about that first gentleman in your post … he just made me smile and I will definitely buy something from him 😊.
    I love wandering around in markets – maybe not always buying something, but I thoroughly enjoying the vibe and people!

  • Nancy Gordon

    We have hosted two Japanese students in the past and found them to be lovely people from a culture I find fascinating! I love your pictures here and would like to visit Japan someday and visit some markets like what you described…..Nancy

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Nancy, I think you’d enjoy Japan. And it’s such a super easy and friendly place to visit 🙂 By the way, you left the same comment twice. The other was from your mysterious anonymous account whereas this one is clearly you, so I deleted that other one – hope that’s OK?

  • CadyLuck Leedy

    I always like to take my time when I read your posts because there is so much to see and read about! I want it all to sink in! I am surprised the Japanese like their photos taken, I guess I always think of them as shy! So I learned something new there! Also, that man in the yellow ……..what are the little squares he is displaying? I love exploring markets…….touristy or not. 50-70 stalls in a mountain town in Japan would be hitting the jackpot! It is a must on any vaca for me! Thanks for the GREAT POST again this week, everyone enjoys them so! Cady

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you so much for that enthusiastic feedback Cady 🙂 I think those little blocks must be wooden sake cups as we saw them elsewhere in the town. We went to a couple of sake breweries offering tastings and one of them had cups like that. But I don’t remember for sure.

      The Japanese seemed OK about having their photos taken, I found – not super enthusiastic about it like those in some other countries but perfectly OK about it 🙂

  • Junie-Jesh

    Have sometimes difficulty telling the difference between Chines and Japanese, but the name of this market must be Japanese! Chuckled at the sign”NOT chosen by appearance. But what brought me to your blog was the comment you had been to Cingue Terre. Wished we had taken a week for that instead one day:) Jesh

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, you’re right, Japan 🙂 It’s in the categories at the foot of the post but they aren’t as obvious with this theme as I would like.

      I haven’t blogged yet about the Cinque Terre. I only started this blog last summer and have over 40 years of travels to catch up on 😆 But maybe one day. We were there for about four days I think – long enough to get to every village but not to do much in the way of longer walks.

  • maristravels

    You’ve make me envious when I see what you got from Takayama. I was ill the two days we spent there, managed to get out and about on one day but never felt well enough to enjoy things much. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never written about it? I didn’t get to the market though, but I doubt if my pix would have been anything like yours. Those portraits – brilliant – and that one of the chillies. Wow!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      That’s such a shame Mari. I have to say Takayama was probably my favourite place in Japan and if we ever go back to Honshu I would want to fit it into another itinerary. I loved the mountain air climate (chilly nights, hot days), the old merchant houses, the shrines, the museums – and the Hida beef!!

      • maristravels

        Ah, there we part company, Sarah. I like my beef totally without fat. I know people say it’s tasteless without fat but I just hate animal fat, and the famous marbling of the meat in Japan, just turned me off.

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Yes, I can see that it might but actually the meat seems less fatty with it evenly distributed like that – once it’s cooked you don’t even notice it. We went to a fabulous little place that specialised in doing burgers made with the Hida beef. They cost twice as much as their regular burgers but were worth every penny!

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    The first photo of the market vendor is cool, just makes you smile. We love to visit markets on our travels and it doesn’t matter if they are renowned as tourist spots they are great places to mingle with locals in everyday life. They are vibrant and exciting, love sampling the street food there too 😊

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you, glad you liked this 🙂 Yes, the street food here looked really good, but we’d just eaten breakfast so we restrained ourselves, apart from the sweets!

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