Tokyo Culture Report: The Famous Setagaya Boro-Ichi Market (GALLERY)
Four Hundred and Thirty Years of Practice Makes Perfect
That is the lesson to be learned at the Setagaya Boro-Ichi Market, which does in fact go back about that far.
The word "Boro" of Boro-Ichi refers to the old fabric scraps traditionally sold at the market. Today’s fare includes modern toys, appliances, and cell phone key chains, and the market’s liveliness and popularity has not decreased over time; twice a year, Boro-Ichi is an exciting place to explore, eat, and shop.
Thousands of visitors attend the market, held on the 15th and 16th of December and January, regardless which day of the week those days fall. While inconvenient for some, the market is open from 9AM to 8PM, giving everyone an opportunity to visit.
While snow was in the forecast - though it did not actually snow - the first day of the January market was frigid yet full of life. About 700 vendors set up shop, selling products from food to used kimonos, with hundreds of miscellaneous items in between. Like the markets of old, antiques and used clothing are also major components of the market's available fare.
Food items vary from the usual festival goods (yakitori meat skewers, sweets, chocolate bananas, French fries, etc.) to various types of mochi; including the market's own daikan mochi rice cake. One of the best bites of the market is oyaki, which is a rare treat outside of Nagano Prefecture. Filled with pumpkin, sweet red bean, green vegetables, miso-eggplant, apples, or a variety of other flavors, the soft, small buns known as ‘oyaki’ are a delicious treat. Another great taste at Boro-Ichi is amazake, a sweet, thick sake that keeps its drinkers warm during the cold winter months.
Located in the residential neighborhood of Setagaya in Setagaya Ward, the market is not in the most accessible location, but it continues to draw huge crowds every year. Visitors head to the market via Setagaya or Kamimachi Station, both on the Setagaya Line. Departing from Tokyo’s Shibuya ward, an easier option is taking one of the few buses whose route passes Setagaya Station.
Yes, you’ll have to wait until December, but put the Boro-Ichi Market in your calendar now - it’s worth looking forward to!
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Images: Nadia Sobehart
About the Author: Nadia Sobehart is a full-time graduate student in Keio University’s renowned Media Design program (KMD). She’s passionate about writing, traveling, music, and adventure. She scouts the city for festivities, new experiences, and cute cafes in which to learn and pleasantly pass the time. Nadia balances thesis research, pursuing a career in music and entertainment, writing for JTB USA, and keeping up her private blog, Tokyo Doll.