It’s well before dawn in Osaka when merchants, fishermen, and chefs gather to auction off – and bid on – the day’s catch, fresh produce, and seasonal ingredients at the Osaka Municipal Central Wholesale Markets. The Markets opened in 1931 and are one of Osaka’s main attractions today. Osaka’s food-loving culture starts at 4:15am with the Refrigerated Tuna Seller. A bell is rung, and giant, whole tuna fish are placed on display. The tuna sells out within the hour, and the bidders move on throughout the enormous 320,000 square meter venue to try their luck at winning other coveted food items.
The vegetable wholesale market takes place on the third floor. The cost of a box of vegetables at the wholesale markets is approximately half of what it is in a grocery store. The fruit markets show off the ripe, in-season bounty on conveyor-belts. The sushi restaurant Endo, open since 1907, attracts vendors and market workers but also welcomes tourists. The inexpensive, small restaurant is one of Osaka’s best. By early morning the auctions have completed in the nearly 200 shops housed here.
The Central Wholesale Markets is a 10-12 minute walk from the Noda Statoin on the JR Loop Line or Tamagawa Station on the Senmichimae subway line in Osaka. Unfortunately, the morning auction and vendors are not open to the public, but it is possible to see the Markets in a guided tour. Reservations are required for the tour.