If it has gills and lives in the ocean, you're likely to find it at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market, a testament to Japan's proximity to the sea, as well as its culinary love affair with seafood. The world's largest, busiest fish market moves some 2,400 tons of maguro (bluefin tuna), squid, octopus, shellfish, crustaceans and other creatures of the deep daily.
Early-birds arrive at 5 a.m., hoping to catch the action at a live tuna auction. Even if you're not so ambitious, try to visit by 9 a.m., when business begins winding down and shopkeepers start rolling up their stalls.
To sate an appetite for something fishy, belly up to a sushi bar for breakfast in the restaurant area near the wholesale market, inside the main gate off Shin-ohashi Street. If you're willing to wait, Sushi Dai is known for some of the best sushi in town, but there's a good chance you'll find a long line. Daiwa-Zushi, farther down on the same side of the street, also comes highly recommended, as do outlets of the reliably good Sushizammi chain.
A warren of narrow streets beyond the wholesale market is packed with stalls selling fresh seafood as well as specialty items like wasabi root, dried bonita, lacquered bowls, parchment placemats and sashimi knives. Even if you can't take home something fishy, find a wide range of souvenirs and practical kitchen items that will bring back memories of Tokyo's best catch.
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One of the highlights, albeit a cold one, of visiting the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market at 5 a.m. is getting to watch the tuna auction—only the frozen carcasses, though, as the fresh tuna auction is held in another warehouse room, closed to the public. The tails of this huge fish have been sliced open so the bidders can examine the flesh.
Another benefit of an early morning visit: The sushi restaurants in the neighborhood open for breakfast, serving up what they've just procured from the market.
For more about the market, visit www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm
The 3:30am wake-up call was well worth it, as we scored the last spots of the day to view the Tsukiji Market tuna auction. Walking through the market is dangerously interesting—everywhere there are men operating vehicles and conducting fish business at a fast pace.
We arrived at 4:15am and barely made it: we were the last six out of 120 visitors allowed daily to watch the auction. The schedule is packed and your visit will be quick. We were in the second viewing group and were allowed in the market from 5:50-6:15am. Getting to Tsukiji via taxi is easiest, since no trains run before 5am.
While this is a fun place to visit, it's also a serious and fast business, so as we walked to the auction area we were literally in the way of the workers and often very close to run over. Keep your wits about you!
Bring your camera and arrive before 4am for your best chance of securing a spot.
The Tsukiji fish market might feel overwhelming at first, but once you figure out how to navigate the different sections, everything falls into place. If you're really feeling lost, there is a tourist information center that offers free maps to tourists.
I recommend getting there early, as most vendors start packing up shortly after noon. The inner market is where you will find fresh fish while the outdoor market mainly sells fruits, vegetables and items for the home. The inner market is especially crowded to keep an eye on your surroundings so you don't hold up traffic.
If you're feeling particularly hungry, wait in line to eat at one of the small restaurants on site. Only a few people can be seated at a time but the food is delicious.
On my first visit to Tokyo, I did the requisite tourist thing and attended the tuna auction at the soon-to-be relocated Tsukiji Market. After half an hour of ogling the wellie-clad bidders and auctioneers, I went for breakfast with the other gaijin at one of the sushi counters in the nearby wholesale area of the market. I'm not generally fond of food-related bragging as it tends to be dull for everyone else, but this was an omakase symphony like I'd never experienced. The undisputed crescendo was a single piece of otoro, i.e. fatty tuna, that has had the unintended consequence of ruining almost every sushi meal that I've had since. I lack the vocabulary to do it justice--putting a specific flavor into words is always an elusive challenge--but I'd never had tuna that was so, well, "full of itself." It was as if, by some feat of molecular gastronomy, a piece of fish had been cloned entirely from its most pure essence. But this was no culinary experiment from some Michelin-starred celebrity chef. This was straight up perfection. Au naturel.
Fresh, frozen, and living, Tsukiji fish market pushes around 4,500 lbs of seafood a day. At 3:00am, while you’re out clubbing, 400 different types of seafood from tiny sardines to 600-lb tuna arrive by ship, truck, and plane from all over the world. Once unloaded, most seafood strains through the “inner market” (jonai shijo), stopping among the 900 wholesale stalls—but the most prized tuna are sent to auction.
Blanketed in thick layers of white ice, human-sized tunas are inspected, valued, and prepared for auction. Hordes of buyers and auctioneers gather around 5:30am to begin the bidding. At the auction houses there are usually designated spots for "non-fisherman" to grab a glimpse, so make sure to get there before 6:30am, when activity declines.
Tsukiji is not for the faint of heart. You have to appreciate seeing (and smelling) all the guts and glory of a fishermen’s life. Throughout the main market stalls, you must find a balance of observing and staying out of the way. Motorized carts whiz by like a video game, and slimy breathing fish can dance into the isles as you make your way through. Watch as large fish are cut to pieces with band saws while smaller ones are prepared with extremely long knives called Oroshi hocho.
When 7:00am rolls around, find your way to the “outer market” (jogai shijo) for restaurants serving up the freshest sushi of your life. You have seen the fish’s entire journey from boat to plate; at this point the only step left is to enjoy eating it!
an early morning visit to the fish market in Tokyo is easy when you are up at dawn from the time change. we walked the bustling aisles trying to stay out of the way but mouths agape at the splendor of ocean riches. as we passed a produce stand, I was struck by how lovely these scallions were presented. years ago I had read that there is a saying in Japanese that even five eggs can be art if presented in the correct manner. clearly this qualfies as art!
Tsukiji Market is a must do anytime you are in Tokyo. You will see various kinds of seafood that you have never seen before and can also indulge in a fresh sushi breakfast at a nearby sushi restaurant. It is also a good way to start your trip if you are suffering from jet leg since the market opens early. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes with grippy sole. The market is wet and slippery and you will have to dodge fishermen in small forklifts.
Tourists can no longer access the hectic wholesale market within Tsukiji Fish (unless observing the famous tuna auction, which entails awakening at an ungodly hour and standing in line) I opted to shop the outer retail markets and take an early lunch at one of the restaurants.
I arrived at 10:30 a.m. and stood in line with 20 or so other eager sushi enthusiasts for 15 minutes at a random whole-in-the-wall restaurant. Once inside, I was seated at the counter, given an extensive menu, glass of green tea and a cup of miso soup.
I selected a piece of tuna, salmon, scallop, and something called hanasari sarada gun. My bill came to $12 (no tipping in Japan).
I can't say that the sushi was life-transforming but the experience was a kick.
I’ve eaten great food before. But all raw fish aficionados should make a pilgrimage to Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo in their lifetime. The best and freshest fish are known to come from the Tsukiji Fish Market. The sushi bars that surround the market are the epicenter of sushi culture.
The lines for the best ones start at 5am when they start serving. They usually close around 12. The restaurants outside the market can stay open for twenty four hours. The sushi restaurants are small, crowded and sometimes the chefs take something right out of the tank in front of you and prepare it. I think it was still moving.
o-toro (fattiest of the fatty tuna) was the best tuna I’ve ever had. The whole piece melts in your mouth. You don’t even need to chew. It tasted fresh and rich in flavor with gorgeous color and marbling.
I’ve never had uni that was this amazing. I’ve never even liked uni before. Sea urchin at a lesser degree of freshness tends to be overly mushy, taste a bit rank and looks like it’s covered in a sort of mucus. This was the best I’ve ever tasted.
Eating sushi in Tsukiji was a near spiritual experience for me and I’m sure it would be for anyone that loves sushi. For more photos go tohttp://travelwellflysafe.com/2014/12/14/sushi-at-tsukiji-tokyo/