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Delicious and Fun! Akachochin Yokocho – Hokkaido’s Oldest Food Stall Village

There are many yatai-mura (food stall villages) in Hokkaido – some of them are famous, while others are unknown. There’s Noren Yokocho in Sapporo, Daimon Yokocho in Hakodate, and Kitano Yatai in Obihiro. But did you know that the oldest food stall village in Hokkaido is in Kushiro City? Let’s explore Hokkaido’s oldest yatai-mura!

Kushiro Akachochin Yokocho started with mobile market stalls on tricycles in 1952, soon after the war. It moved to Kita-odori and Shirogane-cho in Kushiro City, and then opened the present-day integrated Akachochin Yokocho in Kawakami-cho, Kushiro City, in 1968. It is the oldest food stall village in Hokkaido, as it has been 65 years since its humble beginnings as stalls on tricycles, and 49 years since it opened at the current Akachochin Yokocho.

Many of the shops here have around six counter seats. Interaction thrives among strangers inside these narrow spaces. There is no policy for refusing first-time visitors, so all the shops will make you feel the kindness and elegance of those inside as they give you a warm welcome.

Out of the 26 shops that currently reside at this yokocho, 24 shops are constantly packed with guests. While there are shops that are typically seen in yokochos, such as 19 small eateries and one sushi joint, there are also three Italian shops, one bar, and a growing number of establishments that are drawing in young people.

The visitors of this yokocho come from a wide range of age groups – from university students to office workers, office ladies, and housewives. It seems that many of the customers flow into Akachochin Yokocho to visit their second (or more) shop after drinking alcohol at Suehiro, which is the business district of Kushiro. Tourists have also been pouring in as of late, probably because they discovered that this is such a fun spot! You will see tipsy people cheerfully walking around, or hear singing voices coming from nearby restaurants. The sounds heard in this yokocho, where a lot of shops and people gather, will tug at distant memories of the past.

An akachochin (red lantern) – the origin of Akachochin Yokocho’s name – hangs in front of each store. A lit red lantern is a signal that the shop is open.

This area is lined with restaurants where shop owners and customers merrily communicate while laughing. There are definitely many regular customers, but it seems that many new customers also come every day in search for a new shop. The shops are not too spacious, so you can easily talk to people you meet for the first time.

Many people come to this yokocho for their second or third stops of the night, so come right after they open to avoid the crowd. However, the best time to visit would be from 9:00 pm, when the yokocho is crowded. The customers significantly grow in number, so you will be able to talk to many people. Look through the noren (curtain hung at the entrance of a shop) and then head inside any shop that seems to have a fun vibe!

Kushiro’s Akachochin Yokocho, the oldest food stall village in Hokkaido, is packed with small old-fashioned shops and trendy establishments that have an atmosphere reminiscent of the yokocho vibe during the Showa era. You will discover something new here every time you come, so it might be a great way to end your sightseeing trip in Kushiro!

Akachochin Yokocho

4-1 Kawakami-cho, Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido

[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 10.22.2017]

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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