On Fridays to Sundays, the Karato Market (唐戸市場) will host a Sushi Battle event. During this period, participating fish stalls will sell sushi and other edibles that they in the market area. Wanting to experience this event, I made sure to schedule our visit to the fish market during the weekend on our Northern Kyushu trip.
The Karato Market actually located in Shimonoseki in the Yamaguchi Prefecture on the main island. While it’s not located in Kyushu, it’s only a 5 minutes boat ride away from the JR Mojiko Station in KitaKyushu. Since the market can get busy near the lunch hour, we arrived early to beat the crowd.
As soon as we arrived, we were immediately drawn to the first vendor closest to the market entrance. The bowls of chirashi don (rice topped with slices of raw seafood) and fresh nigiri sushi stopped us in our tracks. As we examine their offerings, the ladies behind the counter waited patiently. Once we made the indication of wanting to purchase, they gave us a plastic container and a pair of tongs. Then made the gesture of “help yourself to the spread”. We probably look like little kids at a candy store as we filled the box with nigiri sushi.
Sushi Battle at Karato Market
During the Sushi Battle event, you’ll find a couple rows of seafood vendors selling mostly nigiri sushi or raw fish items like sashimi and chirashi don in the main market area. The vendors try their best to draw your attention and win your patronage by shouting their offerings. While we don’t understand what they were saying, the delicious looking food already has our full attention.
All the nigiri sushi is on a self-serve basis. You pay by the piece and the price varies from ¥100 to ¥600. Here’s how it works:
- Get a plastic box and a pair of tongs from the vendor.
- Place the nigiri sushi you want in the box.
- When you’re done, pass the box to the vendor and they’ll let you know the total price.
- They will add in wasabi and soy sauce.
- Pay and enjoy your sushi!
Besides raw fish, there are cooked seafood skewers, soups and deep fried items. These foods are usually handled by the vendor. Simply let them know which kind and the quantity you want to buy, and they will prepare it for you. There is an area near the front of the fish market setup with tables and chairs. You can dine there or sit outside on a nice day.
Fugu (Pufferfish) Capital of Japan
Prior to the trip, I did not know that Shimonoseki is the fugu (pufferfish) capital of Japan! It’s no wonder that I saw a lot of puffy fish displays at the Karato Market. The most famous fugu dish is likely sashimi. It’s where the pufferfish is sliced so thin, you can see through it. Besides sashimi, we found deep fried pufferfish and fugu saké! We saw these saké glasses with a pufferfish design on it and purchased on to see what it tasted like. The saké was served warm and there was a pufferfish tail inside. It tasted like alcohol with a fishy after taste. Let’s just say it was not for me. However, the glass is lovely and makes a great souvenir.
My Nigiri Sushi Breakfast
With so many items to choose from, I had trouble deciding what to eat for breakfast! While some of them have signs written in Chinese or English, most items are labelled in Japanese. So I just picked the ones that look delicious. Here is a look at some of the nigiri sushi and other items I bought for breakfast. I don’t remember what most of them were (sorry!) except that they were delicious!
[Saba, Scallops and Octopus Nigiri Sushi]
[2 pieces of Mantis Shrimp Nigiri Sushi]
[Mantis Shrimp Miso Soup
We had a great time at the Karato Market. The family really enjoyed checking out all the fresh seafood at the market. On average we each spent about ¥2,000 for the meal. While some of the items we had chosen were delicious, others were not as good as we thought. For me, this was an interesting experience and a fun way to try different sushi and seafood items that might not be commonly found else where (such as the octopus and mantis shrimp nigiri sushi, or the fugu saké ). I definitely recommend you pay a visit if you’re visiting Kyushu.
If you have the JR Kyushu Pass, it’s very easy to get to Karato Market. The trains are included in the pass so you only have to pay for the ferry ride. To get to Karato Fish Market from Fukuoka:
- Take the train from JR Hakata Station to JR Kokura Station.
- From JR Kokura Station, transfer to the train heading to JR Mojiko Station.
- Exit the JR Mojiko Station – once you pass the ticketing gates, head left.
- Head to the ferry terminal called Kanmon Kisen (関門汽船 門司港乗り場).
- Take the ferry (¥400 one way) to Shimonoseki ferry terminal (about 5 minutes).
- Exit the Shimonoseki ferry terminal and walk along the water to your left. You will see the Karato Market in about 5 minutes.
The easiest way to check train route and times is with Google Map. Just type in the station names to find the time. Be sure to look for the option that does not include “Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen” as is not included in the JR Kyushu Pass.
Traveling to Fukuoka, Japan? Here’s a list of things to do in Fukuoka.