In a bid to get people out of the big shopping malls and back on the streets, the Association of Merchants of the Omotecho Shopping Arcade decided to create a morning market to attract more visitors. The core market hours are from 10-12 am but many stalls are open before and after that.
The tale of the Omotecho Shopping Arcade is one of the price of development and the demographic change that has happened in Okayama. With the opening of major shopping malls like Credo and Loft near Omotecho and the renewal and expansion of Okayama Station, not to mention the shopping outlets that have been built in neighboring Kurashiki City, area shopping arcades have suffered. Another issue is that fewer families live in the center city which greatly affects the types of businesses that can thrive in this environment.
The Thursday Morning Market is not restricted to the Omotecho Shopping Arcade and includes the surrounding shopping streets, of which one of the most classic is Saidaiji-cho. All of the arcades connect to Omotecho and it takes several hours to really have a good look at them. When you come to the market its best to start at the beginning of Omotecho because its entrance on Momotaro Boulevard right next to Symphony Hall is easy to find for first time visitors. It also provides a point of reference as you move through the arteries of the shopping district.
The shop owners and visiting merchants set up tables and stalls in the middle of the automobile-free tile covered walkways of each arcade. You can select from discount prepared food, fresh fruit and vegetables, Japanese traditional crafts, handmade jewelry, clothing, antiques and even common household items.
Despite what you may think, the sellers and the passersby are a mixed bunch. There are young people selling their handmade wares and young mothers with children in tow looking for a bargain. When it hits lunchtime area workers inspect the selection of local delicacies, in search of something to complement their afternoon meal.
Walking through, I try to take it all in but come to terms with the fact that it would take several visits to truly appreciate the Omotecho Thursday Morning Market.