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Up Market in Osaka

There wasn’t much to see in Ashiharabashi before Up Market set out its first tents six years ago. Former home to Osaka’s leather-making industry, the area had a taint that organizer Hiroyuki Kato wanted to lift. His company, Sarto, stepped in to help revitalize the area, and this monthly market is an integral part of that plan.

Up Market is spread over three sections, each unique and full of an interesting mix of more than 100 artisans, farmers, bakers, craftsmen and women and food trucks. Musical performances are also regularly scheduled throughout the day to keep visitors and vendors entertained.

The first section is located inside Salt Valley, a combination youth hostel and venue rental space. Here Ai Umakoshi of Guruli Farm in Wakayama can be found in her work boots and kimono with a selection of her seasonal organic vegetables and her unique baked goods. Ai takes great joy in creating sweet breads, tarts, and other treats from eggplant, daikon and bamboo shoots, and her regular customers know to come early for the best selection. Her vegetables, too, are some of the loveliest around.

Down the hall and outside in an inner courtyard is Kanako Tanaka and her homemade bagels. Tanaka is quiet and unassuming, but the bagel-shaped earrings she wears give away the passion lurking inside. Vivid sandwiches using seasonal vegetables are her specialty, and Tanaka has perfected her recipe over the last three years. The bagels are just the right texture—flavorful and tender without being soft—and the sandwich filling flavorful yet not too saucy. 

Around the corner from the courtyard and on the other side of the overhead train tracks stretches a line of artisan tables that include jewelry, handmade buttons and gorgeous embroidery. Crafty folks will be pleased to find the giant table of leather scrap pieces, a nod to the area’s long history and the craftsmanship still underway in the neighborhood.

The nearby parking lot is where the bulk of the action takes place. Keisuke Noda brings a selection of ceramic work from artists in Kansai. He opened his gallery about a year ago after having had enough of the salaryman lifestyle. His selection is well worth a look, and it will be very difficult to come away with only one piece. However, Naoki Yamadori and his traveling taproom may be the perfect justification for one of Noda’s lovely cups. Yamadori started Zigzag Brewery seven years ago in rural Sasayama, Hyogo Prefecture. Each month he is on hand with three of his beers for visitors to enjoy as they savor all the fun this market holds.

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