Tucked away just outside of Morioka Station is a street called Zaimokucho. On a weekday, it might seem like any other street: coffee shops, stores, cars passing by as they rush home from work. It’s cute and it’s quiet and it’s empty save for a few people on a stroll. It runs parallel to the Kitakami River where you can find a nice view of Mt. Iwate.
If you were a visitor on any day but Saturday you would be missing out on what the street of Zaimokucho actually is, for come Saturday it’s no longer an ordinary street. It completely transforms into an outdoor market, littered with people and food of all kinds. They call it Yoichi.
I first discovered Yoichi when my friend informed me to join them at a local bar one Saturday on Zaimokucho. Assuming I was looking for a small hole in the wall, I kept my eyes open for fear of missing the sign. What I had discovered was a very busy street packed with people and no cars. On previous strolls through the neighborhood I had adored the street for its quaintness, never assuming that it could be anything more. Yet, there it was, the smell of yakitori inviting me to join the festivities.
Yoichi is a local outdoor gathering of farmers and businesses where they sell their products. Stands are set up along the streets with the products lined up to advertise and tempt passersby. While food is mostly what is sold at the market, there are some antiques, clothing and other home goods which can be found there. Many locals gather to see what fresh fruits and vegetables they can buy for a good price while also being able to pick up a skewer of yakitori. Of course, we can’t forget the oysters that are sold here, which produce long lines of hungry shell shuckers. Flowers are sold, ice cream is sold, nikuman (pork buns) are sold— there’s something for everyone. Yoichi is where I like to pick up my apples because they are locally grown and sold at a better price than regular stores, but it’s also a great place to eat Japanese street food while catching up with friends outside in the sun. For many it’s about the gathering of friends and family, and kids can run around while the adults enjoy a refreshing beer from the Baeren Craft Beer restaurant. For others it’s the food, the food, and the food.
If you get a chance to head up to Morioka, check out the lively daytime scene on Saturdays at Yoichi on Zaimokucho where you can also enjoy the local life.