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February 02, 2017

Tsukiji Fish Market - Street Food of Tokyo

So we're going to jump back into our trip to Tokyo. We wanted to let you all know about the crazy street food in Tokyo that we ventured into, and what to try/what to skip.



GETTING LOST

The day started out with a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market, the most famous and largest fish market in the world. Pretty impressive and a must-see for any visitor to Tokyo. Tsukiji is also famous for their massive tuna auctions in the wee hours of the morning. If you are determined to watch the tuna auction, be prepared to arrive at the market between 3:00-4:00am (as early as 1:00am during peak seasons). They only allow two sets of 60 people who are allowed to watch the auction each morning, with auctions taking place between 5:25-5:45am and then again at 5:50-6:10am. If you are concerned about what time to get there, private guides are also offered! Keep in mind that the market is closed on Sundays and most Wednesdays so be sure to plan ahead.



Dan and I never made it to the tuna auction because we didn't want to risk waking up early and not getting a spot to watch the auction. That and we prefer sleep. However I was fortunate enough to be able to watch the tuna auction back in highschool, so I can definitely vouch for it. It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed and it all happened way too fast. If you are up for skipping sleep for one night, I would say this is a must-see experience.  Best of all, it's absolutely FREE!

However, if you decide to skip it, the fish market itself has plenty to offer.  There are two main parts to the market. The outer market consists of narrow streets packed with stall after stall selling goods ranging from fresh seafood, to sashimi knives, real wasabi, mochi, and pork buns. The inner market is much more chaotic, filled with motorised trolleys, narrow maze like paths and never ending stalls offering everything edible the ocean has to offer.

Understandably, they don't LOVE tourists at the inner market, as that's where a bulk of the business is done. However, if you purchase seafood while roaming through the inner market, you won't get kicked out. That being said, the inner market winds down around 10:00am with all the vendors starting to clean up fish guts and close up shop. The best time to go is between 9:00 and 10:00 if you plan on simply roaming and gawking as all the stalls. Which is exactly what we did. We got lost in the maze of the market and managed to snap some photos before being told ‘NO CAMERAS’ by an elderly fish seller. Time to leave this area, we were obviously NOT welcome!

Word to the wise, be sure to wear closed-toed shoes. The inner market is messy and the floors are wet and lined with fish bits and pieces. The smell is overpowering initially, but you quickly forget about it once your eyes begin to scan and comprehend your amazing surroundings.
















SUSHI BREAKFAST

After that venture, we then found ourselves hungry for breakfast. With no scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, or sausage in site – we decided to try out sushi for breakfast, as the locals do. Here is a list of great recommendations for breakfast options around tsukiji if sushi isn't doing it for you. We ducked into one small eating establishment, with their enticing pictures of fresh Kaisen don (sashimi rice bowls) postered on their windows outside, along with a MASSIVE tuna head, disconnected from its body of course. We figured this must be a good indication of fresh tuna inside.

We each ordered the most colorful sashimi bowl on the menu (and the most expensive unfortunately at roughly $20 USD each), which contained 14 vastly different types of fresh creatures of the sea with accoutrements. This was definitely a hit or miss situation, kind of like playing roulette with your taste buds. Tuna = amazing, mystery white slimy gritty chewy fish = horrible. This was in fact fun to try if you like to live life on the edge with your food choices. Overall, not our best decision to start the day – but hey, an experience we lived to tell.






MARKET VENDORS

Next we proceeded to walk through the overcrowded and bustling outer market – most stalls were offering samples to reel in the tourists. Think your local farmer's market, but with an exotic, fishy twist. There is nothing left to the imagination as to what you can try, including an abundance of tiny fish crackers (which each is a mini sardine) – one of us liked this dried fish thing (not Dan).
We first tried Tamagoyaki (egg on a popsicle stick), which had the longest line, probably for the Insta-worthy unique presentation.  It was also only a dollar. This was a very sweet egg, almost as if they cooked it in maple syrup. One of us liked it once again (not Dan).

On to the next trial, we found a nice little sake store with a sign saying ‘Hot Apple Cider Sake’ – done. It was frigid outside, so this was a nice hidden gem. We don’t think we read that sign right, as they were very confused with the ‘hot’ request, and the order we placed. After a few back-and-forth English-to-Japanese bad translation attempts, they pulled a burner out of the back for us and made a hot sake topped with apple cider, we think. It was the perfect drink to carry around the market under the brisk weather conditions.

That lead us to stumbling upon steamed dumplings from an old-timer. This man looked like he’d been perfecting his dumpling-making craft for 60 years. Probably the best dumplings that we’ve ever had!







Across the street from one of the entrances to the outer market is also a charming Japanese shinto shrine called Namiyoke Inari. It was particularly beautiful the day we were there with it's surrounding trees in full fall mode.






DESSERT

Time for dessert – first up Daifuku, confection made of mochi filled with anko (red bean paste). If you haven’t tried mochi, it’s a very chewy, lightly sweetened ball of greatness. Delicious treat, we just wish we ordered more!

Next on the clock was Wasabi Ice Cream. Our tour guide from the Mt. Fuji trip let us know this exists around Tokyo, so we were determined to find it. We randomly passed a soft-serve ice cream vendor who offered a literal book of flavors – and within that was a green ‘horseradish’ ice cream option. I asked for wasabi, and they directed me to this. The Wasabi Ice Cream provided a strange sensation upon each taste, but definitely something that we would order again. The wasabi was not overpowering, but yet a small kick to it, and added a crazy depth to the traditional soft-serve.








TUNA FOR LUNCH

We found an actual indoor strip of nicer vendors from here, without big crowds. In here were vendors cutting up massive tuna that they had bought fresh that day, and providing samples on toothpicks to all passing by – just like the competing Chinese food vendors in a mall. They also offered a variety of items that we purchased, including freshly squeezed mandarin orange juice and salted fish crackers.

We encountered one in-process of cutting up a whole tuna and packaging this, so we asked if we could try the ‘toro’ aka fatty, most-delicious part of the tuna. The fish butchers let us have a try, and we were sold. I think we ordered a half-pound to split, even though our stomachs were at capacity. As they say…when in Tokyo.









Overall the Tsukiji Fish Market is a must-see. No need to wait 2-3hrs for a seat at the famous sushi spot there (Sushidai) or wake up at 3am to see the tuna auctions, as there are plenty of unique things to try & experience at the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Stay tuned for more on this trip!

Happy Travels,



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