Long famed for its onsen and beaches, Ito City recently added a new event to its repertoire: the Ito Marche. Started in July 2019, the monthly market aims to bring together farmers, craftsmen and women, fishermen and bakers for a festive community gathering focused on local products and makers. Toshiki Kajiyama is the brainchild of Ito Marche, which attracts more than 3,000 people each weekend. That’s welcome news for the 75 vendors who set up each month at Fuji Park.
“We wanted to do something to raise Ito up a little bit,” Kajiyama said as the first live music act warmed up on the stage. Mr. Kajiyama is the owner of R-Ship, a non-profit organization focused on helping rural cities and towns like Ito revitalize their economies and communities while dividing his time between Ito and Tokyo.
Shingo Suzuki serves up Shizuoka’s signature product—tea—hot or iced and offers visitors the opportunity to take some of these local leaves home for themselves. Suzuki darts about his stall talking and serving customers, pouring hot water and hitting the timer to make sure it steeps the right amount of time.
“Three minutes,” he warns. “Otherwise it gets too bitter.”
A few steps away is Chie Morita and her baked goods. In business for four years, Morita teaches baking and sweets-making in Ito. While she has no store, her work is clearly well known as customers flock to her table for the salty caramel cake, sea salt scones, butter cookies and the parmesan and basil bread sticks.
Those looking for a savory meal or snack should venture over to Shota Katsumata’s booth. Mr. Katsumata is head chef and owner of Il Golfo, an Italian restaurant he started six years ago when he returned to his hometown. His focaccia sandwiches are a savory sample of his ability. One is a generous serving of pimento bologna and cheese, while the other is a hot, slightly spicy concoction of pulled pork.
While tea may be the prefecture’s signature product, Ray Hieda of R-Sou hopes coffee will make some serious inroads as a beverage of choice. One of three coffee vendors on hand at the market, Hieda’s fair trade, organic beans are ground and brewed on the spot for a smooth and delicious cup.
Down a middle aisle is Tamatsu Yasuda’s table featuring his designs on T-shirts, postcards and bags. Another Tokyo transplant, Yasuda finds the Izu Peninsula and the Ito Marche ideal places to feed his creativity and connect with customers for his goods. Meanwhile other artisans, including three masseuses, are busy chatting with customers bearing bags of treats. Ito and its new market are off to a fresh start indeed.
Fuji Park, Ito City
10-minute walk from Ito Station
First Sunday of every month