There are many reasons to visit Takayama but one is the morning markets held daily, one of the biggest in Japan. There are two parts to this market. The first is the 300 year old Jinya-may market open to farmers looking to sell their goods. The second, the one we visited on numerous occasions, goes along the Miyagawa River side from Kaji bashi Bridge to Yayo bashi bridge.
Start at the beginning, just next to the Kaji bashi bridge. Stop to say hello to a few browse statues on and around the bridge including the Teenage-jin, an old mythological creature with long arms. To the left there is a lovely woman with a little fridge selling glass bottles of Hida milk. You can drink it there and leave the empty bottle with her. On the right there are fruit and vegetable stands, many selling beautiful large juicy apples in several different varieties. Buy one, or a bag. Back over on the left there is a little laneway that leads to a giant wooden chair (great to take pictures on) and a store that sells all sorts of beautiful things made out of wood (another one of the specialties of the region). There is also a café here where we had breakfast. Back on the main stretch there are quite a few street food options and we stopped to eat quite a few of them including some takoyaki (octopus balls) and taiyaki filled with chestnut cream. There was a woman making tiny origami insects (really tiny). As you continue down there are some shops on the left-hand side that sell koji, miso and Takayama’s famous red turnip pickle and have lots of samples so try them all. The last part of the market has seasonal vegetables and herbs. If you then turn to the right at the next bridge there were two more food stalls we loved, one selling donut cakes and another selling midarashi dango, ball shaped rice cakes with soy sauce served on sticks (so good….so good).
Right in the middle of the market street is a stall serving marshmallows. Yes, you read correctly, marshmallows. This may sound crazy, but these marshmallows were the original reason we looked into Takayama before realising what an amazing destination it is. These sweets marshmallow like sweets are called tamaten. They are made by beating egg whites gently and then adding sugar and agar until it has a fluffy texture. It is then dipped in egg wash with a bit of sweet sake added and cooked until it turns light brown. You can buy one freshly made right in front of you for 120 yen or a whole box. Tamaten are not originally from this region but from Hokuriku in the northwestern part of Japan.
Verdict: Skip the hot chocolate and just enjoy the marshmallow. Tamaten market stall, Takayama morning market, Takayama, Japan