Saturday, November 05, 2016

Tokyo fish market (vegans avert your eyes)

Back in June I spent a couple of weeks in Japan with a friend. We walked, saw art, shopped and ate. Oh did we eat! The food was amazing, especially taking pot luck in little Izakayas.

In the months since I returned I’ve been mourning these inspiring and remarkably cheap meals. Alas, I’ll just have to return to Japan for another hit!

As I keep getting asked about my trip from those wanting to take their own pilgrimage, it seemed a good idea to take the blog off life support for a couple of posts.

Where to begin? It was all good. 

Fish for breakfast

One destination high on most Tokyo tourist itineraries is visiting the fish market. The lovely old Tsukiji market was due to close this month (November 2016) but according to a reliable site, the proposed relocation to Toyosu has been put on hold indefinitely. But if you’re planning a visit, it’s wise to check the site not only for location but also opening days.

I love food markets and Tsukiji was a winner. Especially for breakfast.

Tsukiji Fish Market tips

  1. Forget the tuna auction. Unless tuna and/or auctions are really your thing, there’s no point getting up before dawn to do it. If nothing would thrill you more than watching huge dead creatures being auctioned off in the middle of the night – then you must check out all the information about how to get a spot. Places are limited and like most things in Japan, you have to follow the right procedure to be in with a chance.
  2. Public access to the wholesale market starts at 9am, when most of the day’s trade is over. If you leave it even half an hour later, there won’t be much to see.
  3. Arrive hungry. If you get there early or after you've looked at the fish, have a traditional market breakfast of beer, sushi and/or sashimi. We lucked on one of the best, in a row of small sushi bars in the Inner Market (see map). It was amazing. We were the only foreigners there and got approving nods when we ordered a longneck at 10am. Don’t confuse this pocket or eateries with the more touristy ones in the Outer market. 
  4. The best sushi and sashimi I've ever eaten (even the prawn head)! Note the fresh wasabi.
  5. The market is easy to get to by a couple of different train lines. But even trusty Google Maps was a tad challenging to find. On the first visit the layout of the Inner and Outer markets is a bit challenging.
  6. Remember it’s a workplace. Don’t touch the fish, keep out of the way of the traders and be wary of the forklifts and other electric vehicles! The floor is usually wet, so wear appropriate footwear.
  7. The Outer market has restaurants, food stalls, kitchenware and ceramics. If your time in Tokyo is limited and can’t spare a day in Asakusa aka kitchentown, buy your goodies here. Though not expensive, they’re priced for the tourist trade.
  8. My favourite Outer market stall sold a couple of varieties of dried bonito (which looks and sounds like a chunk of driftwood). Mould is used as part of the drying process for one of the varieties. The stall shaves it fresh, and allow you to taste the melt-in-your-mouth bonito flakes, that will make you never want to buy it in a packet ever again.
  9. Check the day. The wholesale market is closed on most Wednesday, Sunday and national holidays. Parts of the Outer market might be open but the really amazing sushi in the Inner market is closed.

Don’t miss out. This old market is a gem. Who knows if or when it well move but odds are that it won’t have the charm and stalls that are part of the current location.

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