The Shiogama Wholesale Fish Market is packed with merchants selling fresh fish and processed seafood products. The market bustles with all kinds of people from professional chefs to tourists. However, because those who work here are aging and there is a lack of young people to succeed them, the market is now facing a major crossroads. When the market opened in 1966, there were 367 stores, but now it is home to less than 100.
It would be a shame to lose this facility where people can experience the wonders of seafood up-close. With this in mind, the Shiogama Wholesale Fish Market 'Bridge Project' was launched. Twenty-three young people working at the market got together to discuss their ideas and to plan sales and events that had never been held before. By building relationships over time, the project members have overcome the initial reluctance of some of the older market vendors to be actively involved and they are now happy to share the wealth of their knowledge. “People now tell us, ‘reach out to us anytime,’” Motohiro Konno, the project leader, says with a smile.
“This market is a microcosm of larger society as it faces an aging population and decline of young people. How should we think and act to create the future? There are many things that we can pass on to our children.”
One aspect the project members are thinking about for the future is a “Kids’ Market.”
“I’d like kids to be able to experience the joys of selling by having an experience where they can think about how to sell products and at what prices, and actually experience selling things. Someday, I’d like those kids to be able to open their own store here.”
In terms of the number and variety of stores, the Shiogama Wholesale Fish Market is the largest wholesale seafood market in Tohoku. It’s also one of the few wholesale markets in Japan where ordinary people can freely enter and shop. “It’s rare to have a place like this with so much opportunity,” says Kenichi Azuma. “In the future, I’d like it to become a more comprehensive market, with a larger variety of stores, selling not only seafood, but also things like vegetables and bread.”