By Haruka Abe & Yoshiki Nomura
In Kochi, there is a tram that runs north, south, east, and west through the heart of the city centering around the Harimaya Bridge downtown. It is used by many people as a means of commuting to work or school and so on. A little south of the noisy tram street, there is a quiet residential area, and on Tuesdays, as the sun rises, people pass door boards over the small canal. A street market will emerge in a blink of an eye. Colorful flowers line up in spring, carp swim in the waterways in summer, and seasonal bonito can’t be missed in autumn and winter.
Kochi city has several street markets that have been loved by locals for a long time. A market floating on the waterway, locals are shopping on Tuesday. Under a good location with prefectural offices, city halls, and office buildings, people are walking in search of delicious lunch on Thursday. A market where vegetables that you have never seen are lined up on Friday.
Kochi city has four markets. Probably, many people visiting Kochi know and visit Sunday market. In addition to this, there are three more markets in Kochi city that draw many people. These street markets have been loved by people for long time and are now undergoing various reforms to attract more tourists.
The city has conducted various surveys and used the information in various ways, such as creating a pamphlet with a map displaying the store number and providing information on Facebook. It has been 10 years since the composition was formulated, however there are currently problems like the aging of store openings, the shortage of successors, and the decrease in local customers in the street market likewise Sunday market.
Tuesday market has interesting features. It is opened on the waterway every time. It means that they hang a thick board over the waterway and set up a stall on it. It has been held in the same place since 1967, the old-fashioned shopping scenery continues.
Mr. Takeda is a city employee and one of the people involved in running the street market.
“You can enjoy the historical atmosphere around you while shopping,” says Mr. Takeda. “If you go to the market early, you can see the sight of laying boards and creating a market.”
From anyone’s point of view, you will be amazed at the scenery of doing it on the waterway.
Thursday market is held in nice place. Surrounded by the greenery of camphor trees, with a great view and environment with a close view of Kochi Castle, and there are many people passing by, so it can be said that it is a good location. And there are some big hotels near the market therefore tourists also come there.
Friday market is currently taking place under the bridge over which the train passes. Thus, people can enjoy shopping even on a rainy day. But this market is especially used by local people so you can enjoy the conversation and atmosphere of people in warm areas, just like your parent’s home.
Sunday market is most famous of these markets as you know. In the castle town of Kochi, it has been run along people’s lives from early morning to early evening. It has a history of over 300 years. It is a large street market that is rare in Japan and has a total length of 1.3 kilometers. And about 16,000 people visit in a day.
Each of these markets have its own personality and charm points. Local users, tourists, and shop owners feel the appeal of the market from their respective standpoints. However, the liveness is fading. Why is it declining?
“It is because no farmer’s successor,” says Mr. Takeda. “There are not as many people farming as they used to be.” From the graph of changes in the presence or absence of successors surveyed by Kochi City, it decreased from 62.0% in 1997 to 28.8% in 2014. This is serious problems in Japanese farmers. In addition to this, “users of markets are also aging and cannot come to shop”.
In this situation, people in Kochi city and professors at university and shop owners discussed and proposed the Kochi Street Market Revitalization Plan. The purpose, of course, it to rejuvenate these as they once did. They conducted various surveys, identified market issues (such as aging store openings, shortage of successors, and declining local customers), and set the basic philosophy for revitalizing the street market. It says, “Inheriting 300 years of history and culture, aim to create an attractive living market where Kochi City full of liveness and smiles.”
As part of the revitalization plans, in addition to vegetables and fruits, various things are being sold. But they should not be too loose, so only traditional and crafts with special skills can open.
“One of a change, these markets were producer-centric, but more recently we also accept listings such as handmade craftsmen and handicraft,” says Mr. Takeda. “Without deregulation, the market will decline.”
The street markets are still bustling with Kochi today, while reforming and preserving tradition.
Back at Tuesday market, the busy market day is coming to an end. As it gets darker and darker, the door plates that were passed over the waterways are removed one by one. The bustle of the market disappears, and only the sound of the trams remain in the city.