Unlike Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea, Japan doesn’t have much of a night market scene, but there are a few dotted around Tokyo to explore!
While bars, restaurants and shops have no qualms staying open late in Tokyo, for some reason night markets have never quite taken off here like they have elsewhere. There are plenty of places with a similar loud, rowdy and friendly atmosphere—the many yokocho and festivals are a great place to start—but if it’s shopping you want then options are a tad narrow.
Ekoda Night Bazaar
Held on the fourth Saturday of each odd numbered month, between 5 pm and 8 pm, this is the only regular proper night market in Tokyo. If you’re lucky enough to be in town on the right weekend, you can enjoy shopping for fresh produce, local goods and enjoy the entertainment.
The market was started in 1996 to support the shops in the shotengai (shopping arcade) between Ekoda and Shin-sakuradai stations, and has been going strong ever since. There’s a great atmosphere at the market as it doesn’t happen too regularly to become run-of-the-mill, but has been running long enough to be well known. There are plenty of family-friendly game stalls and a stamp rally with raffle prizes as well as festival food to keep you going while you browse the stalls.
Yurakucho Yakitori Alley
Not quite a market in the traditional sense, what Yurakucho Alley lacks in knock-off handbags it makes up for in skewered meat. If your main focus at a night market is the food, then you’re in luck, because here there is plenty of it. Beneath the arches of railway tracks izakaya and yakitori shops compete for drunken business. Since this is a commercial district, there are plenty of salarymen to snag on their way home after a long day, so business is best during the week and pretty quiet in comparison at weekends.
Find an outdoor table with a spot or head inside if you don’t mind the smoke. You’ll need to order a beer or a highball to start if you’re keen to fit in, and you’ll find yourself with some new friends in no time.
Ok, so we’re straying pretty far from the smokey, busy night markets of yore, but we’re doing the best with what we’ve got. If you’re looking for an outdoor space with food and drink, Commune has food trucks, an ever-changing roster of seasonal drinks and options for vegans and vegetarians too. Just around the corner is the UNU Farmers Market on weekends, so if you’re staying in the area that might curb your cravings for fresh food and local produce.
Alternative market options
Depending on what it is you’re looking for, there are some places you can find great local produce, vintage clothes or kitchenware.
If it’s cold hard shopping you’re after, then daytime is your best bet, with quite a few stall-lined streets to explore. One option is Ameya Yokocho in Ueno, which can run into evening, especially during summer, but tends to close around 7 pm.
When it comes to finding that unique evening atmosphere, we suggest you check out some of the city’s yokocho alleys filled with skewered meat and beer that are a great way to spend an evening. Festivals often have plenty of stalls and entertainment running into evening, and manage to get that atmosphere with a far merrier and less seedy version than drinking alleys, unsurprisingly.
There are certain times in the year that can make your visit to Tokyo less than idea.