Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tsukiji Fish Market

I finally made it out to the famous Tsukiji fish market!!! This market (築地市場) is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. I've always wanted to visit Tsukiji, especially since it's pretty close to our home in Tokyo, but this was actually the first time I ever visited. Why, you might ask... because I've never been able to wake up in time to make it out to Tsukiji. The operating hours are between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. and most of the action happens around 5:30 a.m. With our jet lag, we woke up at 4 a.m. yesterday so we decided to take advantage of the situation and finally visit Tsukiji.
I've seen this place featured on countless travel and TV show but I was still amazed. This fish market is said to date back to the 16th century during the Edo period when fishermen brought in fresh seafood to supply to the Edo castle.
The market place was like a huge winding maze with rows of small stalls selling everything from the sea that you could imagine. I got to see some fish and sea creatures that I've never even heard of before!
Fish, fish heads, fish guts, different varieties of squid, sea urchin, seaweed, clams, eels, the list goes on and on.
I got to see some fishermen expertly slice and portion hundred pound tunas! Amazing.
New years is quick approaching, and it is the busiest season for Tsukiji. Every household in Japan is beginning to prepare for their special "kaiseki" or new years meals that usually consist of a variety of fish and sashimi. I didn't feel quite welcome as I walked through the narrow walkways, to be quite honest it was intimidating! Workers were frantically running back and fourth, and men riding motorcycles and 3 wheeled carts nearly ran me over at every corner.
If you ever visit Tsukiji, beware these speeding carts! These loud 3 wheel carts haul ass all over Tsukiji Fish market carrying fish on their rear platform. Thousands of these carts are dominating the walkways and they really don't seem to slow down even if you are in their path, it was quite a frightening experience.
We walked to the very back part of the market to observe the tuna auction going on.
In the auctioning section there were rows and rows of gigantic frozen tuna fish. At the auction house, or oroshi gyōsha, they estimate the value of each fish and prepare the incoming products for the auctions. The licensed buyers also inspect the fish to estimate which fish they would like to bid for and at which price. As we were staring in awe at the intense auctioning process I noticed that there weren't very many tourists walking around. Until, a security guard asked us in his polite English to "please go, area bery dangerous. thank you." Only later did we find out that the Tokyo Government that administrates the Tsukiji Market has recently made tight restrictions for tourists. Tourists are no longer welcome in the auction area! I guess tourists have been disrupting business by getting in the way and taking pictures. oops. Well, at least we got to see it once in our lifetime... even though we weren't supposed to.
After walking around, we decided we were really hungry so we headed over to "Sushi Dai." Just look at the line... you know it's good.
Who lines up for close to two hours to eat sushi at 7 in the morning? We do. And apparently those people in line do too.
Sushi Dai is the most popular sushi restaurant in the Tsukiji Fish Market. So popular that most of the time, the wait is about 2 1/2 hours! We got lucky and waited in line for about 1 hour 45 minutes. Someone told me that on new years eve, the wait could get to be about 5 hours. yikes! My hubby and I are major hype beasts, and we had to find out what was so special about this sushi place. Boy, are we glad we waited.
This tiny sushi place is just a bar with 12 seats. Their hours are from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. and apparently there is ALWAYS a line. This sushi place is THE place at Tsukiji, boasting the freshest and best prepared sushi.
Standing in line at 6 a.m. in the cold morning air was well worth it. Once you enter the bar, the sushi chefs greet you warmly. We ordered the "omakase" menu, or the chefs choice menu which consists of 8 pieces of sushi plus one of anything you want.The staff is so friendly, the sushi is something you can't describe, and everyone at the bar is just so happy to be there that you can't help but take your time and enjoy (even though you know dozens of hungry people are desperately waiting in the cold outside).

These photos are completely gratuitous. Go ahead, thank me later and enjoy the feast with your eyes.

This sushi was beyond words. Needless to say we left Tsukiji at 9 a.m. very happy and satisfied.

Tsukiji Fish Market. Located in a row of barracks, in Building 6 in the 3rd alley (just past the mailbox); it's the 3rd shop on the right
Tsukiji, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3547-6797


vermichelli said...

you guys are so hardcore!!! yummy!!!

Erin said...

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