Japan’s central wholesale market for flower auctions
It is more or less known that Japan has a somewhat different relationship with nature (in the cities some may come to the conclusion that one should rather say “no relationship with nature” – but that wouldn’t be a fair statement). And it is probably also no secret that flowers play an entirely different part in the daily life of the people, compared with those, let’s say, in Germany. Some may even be aware of the fact that the flowers’ price tag is usually in a rather “exorbitant” range.
As with vegetables, fruits and other groceries, also the quality standards for flowers are extremly high in Japan. “Immaculacy” that the magic word here. Ask Japanese for their opinion about products offered in European supermarkets – the honest ones will admit that they find the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables discraceful. Of course, one could challenge this attitude, but this is not the place to discuss the value (or rather the lack of it) of optically spotless vegetables. It is just mentioned here to demonstrate that some things are simply different in Japan.
The Japanese flower market is home to about 40,000 different kinds of flowers – and every year some two- to threethousand are being added. Japan is said to know the best methods for the creation of new flower varitions. At the same time, the integration of flowers into daily life, observing seasonal particularities is more or less a must. For more than a thousand years Japan has cultivated its approach towards flowers – finding its point of culmination in the high art of flower arrangement, ikebana.
And apart from all that, Japan ist one of the biggest producers of flowers. The county counts a many as 60,000 families occupied with growing flowers. Most of those establishments are, however – as large parts of the Japanese agricultural efforts – rather tiny (if compared with other global players) and therefore hardly competetive. While the portion of imported flowers was more or less stable in the range of single-digit percentages up until a few decades ago, it has in the meantime soared to 25% or more. With that, Japan is the third-larges importer of flowers – after the USA and the European Union.
The flower market of Tōkyō, located in the very south of the metropolis on a man-made island in the Ōta ward’s (大田区 / おおたく) Tōkai nichōme area (東海二丁目 / とうかいにちょうめ) (opened in September 1990), is the biggest in the country and, after the two gigantic flower markets in the Netherlands, the third-largest in the world. As far as the logistics are concerned it may not be state of the art, but the flower auctions that are being held here in the early morning hours have such a flair that laymen may mistake the location for the control centre of Cape Canaveral – and not for a place for dealing in one of the most beautiful things mother nature has to offer.
There are two large auction halls:
One is run by “Flower Auction Japan” (株式会社フラワーオークションジャパン / かぶしきがいしゃフラワーオークションジャパン), “FAJ” in short.
And the other one by “Ōta Floriculture Auction Co., Ltd.” (株式会社大田花き / かぶしきがいしゃおおたかき).
And this good thing about it is: Once you’ve found the flower market (and this posting is hopefully helping you with that), the balconies for visitors and also the auction halls, you seem to be quite welcome as a visitor. In the areas dedicated to vistors you can watch the market’s activities without disturbing the busy surroundings of the flower auctions. The auction halls may not always be accessible to visitors. While I was there, one was kindly asked to refrain from visiting the “Ota Floriculture Auction”.
The core of the flower market are the auction halls and, of corse, the centres for logistics, ensuring that that flowers not only find their way to the market, but also do those dealers who have bought them during the auctions:
While visiting the flower market, it is highly likely that you will be slightly confused by the mixture of bustling activity and the almost silence of the auctions. And maybe you will also realise (what you may have seen in the flower shops of Tōkyō already) that the colour preferences of the Japanese are slightly different from those in Western countries. There is a certain tendency towards pastel-coloured flowers.
The outer areas of the flower market (but still close to the actual trading) feature some flower shops run by the wholesalers for “professional” demand:
In close neighbourship to the flower market you will also find Tōkyō’s second biggest fish market, the fruits market and the vegetables market.
Address of the flower market:
2-2-1, Tōkai, Ōta-Ku, Tōkyō 143-0001, Japan
On weekdays from the very early morning hours.
Auctions for cut flowers:
Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7 am to 11 am
Auctions for pottet plants:
Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30 am to 9 am
(These times are just approximated times – depending on the season, auctions may end much earlier – try to be there between 7:30 am and 8 am to be on the safe side.)
Basically the market is open from 5 am to 3 pm (even though trading activities start as early as 2 am), but closed on Sundays and certain other days.
Open hours of the visitors’ centre:
On weekdays from 9 am to 12 am and from 1 pm to 4 pm (closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays)
How to get there:
It the easist to take the Tōkyō Monorail (東京モノレール / とうきょうモノレール) to “Ryūtsū Center” (流通センター / りゅうつうセンター) (“Distribution Centre”). After leaving the station turn right and cross the canal alongside the Kannana Dōri (環七通り / かんななどおり) in eastern direction. After the bridge turn right into southern direction. The building of the flower market is decorated with a huge flower symbol on its roof (walking time from the station: about 10 minutes).
There are usually also taxis at the station “Ryūtsū Center” – turn left at the station’s gate and tell the taxi driver:
「大田市場の”花市場”」 / 「おおたしじょうの”はないちば」/ Ōta shijō no hana ichiba