Japan Chronicles 8 – Tsukiji Fish Market (May 23, 2013)
We only had one free day to spare during our Japan tour last May and I wanted to have a blast with my family! Having heard that going to Tsukiji Fish market was a popular tourist activity, we planned the day by first visiting the market.
Tsukiji Fish Market is a large wholesale market in Tokyo. They are best known as one of the world’s largest fish markets hauling around large slabs of tuna. It was a pretty busy atmosphere of shops, people lining up, scooters, trucks and goods everywhere. See the map below for the layout of the areas of the market.
What we really wanted to do in Tsukiji were three things: experience the fish market tour, eat famous sushi and check out the stores around. There was no way we could reach the fish market tour at 5:15am without having to take an expensive cab trip as our hotel was far from the market so we just decided to take the first train trip and hope for the best. If you really want to catch the tour and make it to cut-off, it has been suggested to be there even before 5am as people really line up for it to see the tuna in the market.
Since it was our first time to travel on our own in Japan that day, we weren’t sure which alternative routes would be optimal for us so we asked our tour guide for advice. The first route required us to transfer to different lines until we reach the nearest station to the market, Tsukiji Shijo Station on Oedo Subway Line. We weren’t sure how hard it was to find the stations so it was a concern to us. The second route required us only to stop at Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Line where there would still be about a one-minute walk.
Our tour guide advised us to take the latter one which proved to be not so friendly after all. The second time my mom and sister went to visit, they took the former route. What made the walk a bit challenging was that the streets are not like how they are in the Philippines where one straight road would correspond to a street. Apparently, one area would correspond to a name on the map which would include perpendicular streets all named the same. It was a crazy morning of walking and looking for people awake at that early in the morning. The search only made us realize how friendly the community was because even though some of the Japanese could not express their thoughts in English, they exerted extra effort to make us understand through body language. It was extraordinary!
We headed out as early as we could to catch the first train trip, giving buffer in case we couldn’t figure out the ticket machines where we made sure we had a few lessons the night before. I have already forgotten what time the first train leaves I just know that we eagerly waited until the station opened. We got a bit lost during our walk to the station as mentioned above but we successfully reached our destination. We decided not to even try the tour anymore because we were on a tight schedule so we targeted the famous restaurants instead. We weren’t sure where to go when we arrived so we asked this friendly driver on a truck unloading some tuna. What came next was indeed a surprise!
Next thing we know, the kind driver pointed at this porter, gesturing for us to ride it. It was a bit hard to understand because he couldn’t speak English. The only thing I understood was when he said, “Philippines?” I gladly said, “Yes.” We rode the porter and he dropped us off at Sushi Dai, his recommendation for us to try among all the other famous restaurants in the strip.
We patiently waited for hours together with loads of other foreigners. That’s us nearing the door but the line really goes beyond that perimeter that you see. It extends until the side of the building hidden from the photo. This is perseverance!! No pain, no gain.
When our turn was nearing, they got our orders so they could already prepare. We ordered the Omakase Set of 11 pieces of sushi for 3900 yen and one Standard Jyou of 7 pieces of sushi for 2500. The lady was persuading us to order one more set since we were three but I felt that my mom and I won’t be able to engorge that much rice and seafood anyway so we stuck to our decision.
Slabs of tuna teased our appetite as we waited for our orders in front of the master chefs. It was a memorable experience that I am very fortunate to have shared with my family. It felt like a show as each set of people who entered at the same time experienced the magnificence blow by blow.
I have been wanting to share my photos for the sushi we ate! Finally, here it is! I have dedicated one entry for this experience as this is one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Mind you, I love sushi but not all types of sushi. I realized I didn’t like the sardine ones because they got stuck in my gums which was a bit uncomfortable. They say it’s not good to bite the sushi by parts but it really couldn’t fit my mouth. In Japan, it’s not customary to also drizzle loads of soy sauce on the sushi because it would beat the purpose of experiencing its freshness unlike here in the Philippines. I made sure to have done this in Japan as I read it a lot in tourist guides.
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Photo Credit: japan-guide.com