Tsukiji Fish Market

I hadn’t been back to Tokyo since I was thirteen years old. Back then, Toyko meant two things: Disney Land and cute stationary. This time around, I spent everyday at the many markets, supermarkets and restaurants that Tokyo has to offer. I only had a week in this bustling city, so after I landed I took a short nap before waking up at 3:30 am to leave for the Tsukiji Fish Market. We arrived at around 4:10 am and already there was a line.They only let 120 people in a day- the first 60 at 5:25 am and the next 60 at 5:50 am. I’ve heard so much about this market and have always wanted to see a tuna auction so between me and my time conscious dad, there was no chance that we were going to miss it.

After arriving, we waited at the information center in our neon yellow vests for an hour before we were herded over to the auction area. Just as I stepped outside, a cart zipped a few inches away from my face.This ain’t no school field trip.We were responsible for our own safety now. The market is a real work place so it is important to keep out of the way as much as you can. Pictures are fine, just remember to turn off your flash.

Despite the dangerous circumstances, we made it safely into the auction room. Right in front of us were huge tuna lined up in rows. Bidders were walking from body to body examining with a competitive intensity. We saw a lot of hacking, touching, and contemplating. I was so humbled to see how seriously everyone took their jobs. With the sound of a ringing bell, the auction began. A man standing on a stool conducted the auction by yelling in Japanese in an orchestrated manner while bidders made unique made hand gestures to bid.

I couldnt tell you what they were looking for exactly but it seemed like texture and color was an important factor. Was it everything I thought it would be? I don’t know. I expected  a cacophony of noises, even a few violent fights perhaps. But I know now that only experts are allowed access into the auction room to make bids, so  of course they would be civilized. We were only given about thirty minutes in the auction room and within that time we saw about three auctions. After that, we ventured around the market to find something to eat. Yup, that’s whale meat…

And that’s canned whale meat…

I didn’t have it in me to eat a fellow mammal friend so I decided to go to a popular sushi place called Daiwa Sushi, known for their fatty tuna. We ended up waiting for 25 minutes which wasn’t too long considering the restaurant only sits about 20 people. There was a man that made sure the line was kept in a neat assembly line and occasionally pushed us into the walls when he sensed danger from the fork lifts zipping through.

We had the set menu but all I can remember having is the fatty tuna, prawn, salmon roe rolls, tuna rolls and uni. (At this time it was around 7:00am in the morning- so that would make this the best breakfast I’d ever eaten)

There is nothing that compares to how fresh the sushi was, and writing this reminds me of how much pleasure it brought me.

Two of my favorites were the uni (sea urchin) and the salmon roe sushi. The uni sushi was sweet, fresh and delicate while the salmon roe sushi was robust, firm and salty.

I found this guy working in the back of the restaurant!

It just shows the sea to table freshness of the food.

Does this plant look familiar to you? It’s Wasabi!

More fresh produce.

Well that wraps up a very productive morning at the Tsukiji Fish Market. Although I had an unforgettable experience, I’m not sure how I feel about tourists going to the tuna auctions. After experiencing a few dangerous run-ins to the carts and forklifts, I realized that the market is a real working place that doesn’t cater to tourists. That said, I highly recommend going to the outer markets to explore the many shops that sell everything from knives, sushi erasers, cooking utensils and cook books.

Stay tuned for my next post- It’s going to be everything sushi!

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