There is much to recommend on a visit to Akigawa Market. Located in far western Tokyo, it features produce and products from, quite literally, the surrounding fields and farms that fill the vast plain in all directions. Farms large and small are full to the brim in summer with sweet corn, squash, tomatoes, eggplant and the gaily waving greens of daikon, kabu and komatsuna in winter.
Wheat, soba and blueberries can also be found here, while a cheerful selection of flowers weaves ribbons of color throughout the patchwork during the year. A few direct sale stands appear here and there, but the Akigawa Market is the mother of them all. With a 20-year history, the market looks and feels like a supermarket, but one that features only fresh and local vegetables, baked goods, dried beans, assorted flours, pickles, meats, grains and preserves. Here customers can find local chicken from one of the last remaining poultry farms in the metropolis. Even here, a little more than two hours from Shinjuku with nary a skyscraper in sight, it is technically still Tokyo. It is, according to one friend, beyond belief in terms of taste and quality.
Close by is one of the last, if not the last, remaining dairy farms in Tokyo, and Akigawa customers can go home with a cold bottle of milk. Paired with one of the many alluring baked goods, it is the perfect market treat.
Local corn is renowned for its sweetness and flies out the door as fast as growers bring it. These same tables give way to sweet potatoes, satoimo (taro), chestnuts and delectable greens as the days shorten. Food vendors out front sell bento, grilled fish and okonomiyaki to shoppers waiting for their seasonal souvenirs to be boxed up.
Along with pickled mountain vegetables and a colorful assortment of daizu (soy beans), you’ll find whole or ground walnuts. Gathered from the foothills to the west, the kurumi are smaller than their European and American counterparts with a flavor that is more intense, more “walnutty.” Sprinkled over cold tofu and drizzled with soy sauce is the recommended method of eating, but anywhere sesame seeds fit, so will these.
Photos of the growers and producers who sell here line the wall near the checkout stand while labels on each jar of jam, bag of chestnuts or blaze orange bunch of carrots help customers match a name to a face. Many of them are old and all but one men. Their tanned faces make it easy to imagine that somewhere in the fields just outside the market doors they are already at work on the next day’s harvest.
Akigawa Farmers Market
Nearest station: Higashi-Akiru
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day
Directions: Turn right out of the station and head up the street that goes uphill. Turn left on the busy street and walk another five.