In the land of the rising sun and sushis, I woke up waaaay before the sun showed up to visit the Tsukiji fish market. I woke up at 2 am and arrived at the fish market at 3 am (?!) I don’t remember waking up that early for anything in my life…
Tsukiji market is the biggest wholesale market in the world and an popular attraction in Tokyo. Due it’s impending closure (it’ll be relocated by 2016), tourists have been flocking to this place. I didn’t want to be kiasu but the helpful people at the hotel told us that a guest showed up at 3.15 am and did not get a ticket. If you’re planning to come, here are some tips!
- Clothing It’s going to be cold outside and at the tuna auction place. It’s good to wear something that can keep you warm. Do not wear flip-flop; It’s not allowed. But someone was wearing a pair and allowed entry. I think it’s better be safe than sorry.
- Timing Tsukiji only accept a total of 120 people in a day, separated into two groups. Do come as early as you can. I think 3 am is a good time. By the time we arrived, we were the last of the first 60. We were lucky. Mardy, an American who is currently teaching in Perlis said that she couldn’t get a ticket yesterday and had to come back today. You want to avoid waking up early and traveling far but not get a ticket.
- Transportation A 30 minutes cab ride cost 4000 yen (about RM 120 ringgit).
QUEUING & WAITING (3 am)
We queued outside the information centre for about 15 minutes. At 3.30 am, we were led into a room and given a green vest to show that we have permission to go in. Be prepared to sit on the floor for about 2 hours. To keep hunger and boredom at bay, bring some food or material to entertain yourself.
TUNA AUCTION (5.25 am)
Oh, this is one of the interesting part. At 5.25 am, we were led into a huge hall. Rows of huge tuna were lined on the floor with numbers written on in with what seemed like red marker. Some of them were so big, I think I could fit into them! Buyers were inspecting each of the fish with hooks and flashlight, then write notes on a piece of paper. The seriousness and intensity made me feel as thought they were buying diamond instead of tuna!
The auction was nothing like I’ve expected. A man will stand on some stool and shout in a singing manner. Buyers will use their hand gesture to show how much they are willing to pay for the tuna. What a show! It all lasted only 25 minutes. Some might think it’s not worth the effort, but I disagree!
THE FRESHEST SUSHI BREAKFAST YOU CAN GET (6 am)
Lucky for me, I made friends with fellow Singaporeans and a local, Koyoko-san (?). He took us to an alley with rows of sushi restaurants. You’ll see some restaurants with queue. Forget about wasting your time in the queue. According to Koyoko-san, the fish are all the same. So we went to an empty sushi house and order a set of 12 sushi which cost about RM 100. But it was the best sushi I’ve ever had. The tuna belly sushi melts in my mouth like butter!
SHOPPING AND SHRINE (7 am)
Right behind the restaurants, they are a lot of little shops selling kitchen utensils and food stuff like dried seafood, Japanese knives, green tea and more. I bought some good quality green tea for myself and Mommy.
We had a lot of time to kill so we visited the Namiyoko Jinya, a place to pray for safe voyage, avert misfortune and good luck (I need that in light of crashing/ missing planes). Still we had a little time left and were tired from waking up early, so we sat down in a little cafe.
VISIT THE OPEN MARKET (9 am)
If you’re not a fan of fresh produce (I think most people are not), it’s okay to skip. I on the other hand enjoyed seeing scraps of fish thinking to myself how nice it will be if I could buy it and make fish broth. I saw fish as red as my shirt and metallic like shiny metal. I didn’t know colour of fresh fish can be so vibrant!
Being at the biggest wholesale market, seeing and tasting the freshest fish changed my view. I begin to appreciate fish other than salmon (they are not inferior) and have a new found love for tuna.