Saturday, July 24, 2010

Japan: Tour and visit of Tsukiji Market Place

The world famous Tsukiji Fish Market.  A busy and bustling auction house filled with darting carts and some irritated Japanese men.  The crowds at Tsukiji Fish Market had gotten so out of hand that the Administrative offices were forced to set up ground rules for visitors.  There are now 2 viewings for the market 5:00am and 5:40am.  Visitor reception [located at kachidoki gate] is open from 4:30am, only 70 people are admitted at a time.

We left the hotel at 4:00am to arrive at the offices just after 4:30am on the Friday morning after our arrival.  Unfortunately, our taxi driver didn't drop us off at the right corner so we had to do some walking and searching for the visitor reception area.  Fortunately, my cousin was meeting us there so I called him to help direct us.
I had to admit, this guy kinda scared me.  Typical Japanese - stern at the onset and loosens up when you chat them up.  He was wearing this plastic coat and told me [in Japanese], "I'll be perfectly comfortable wearing this because it's like a meat locker in the auction may be cold."  Luckily, it's been hot and humid so the cool temperatures was very welcome to my overheated body.
We were all forced to wear these vests so that we'd stand out like a sore thumb [and to hopefully prevent me getting killed by those speeding carts].  
Each Tuna was marked with a special kanji so that you knew which fish you were bidding on .  Each of these fish were flash frozen after they were caught.  I was told that the fish has gotten smaller over the years but back in the day, the fish were huge and went for a ridiculous sum of money.

See the guy in the foreground?  He's using a flashlight a pick and a tear off sheet where he makes his notes on the fish.  Here's the tools of the trade:
I was fortunate enough to catch the eye of one of the workers because I had so many questions.  Luckily, my guy LOVED to talk and to share his knowledge with me, the girl with the big @$$ camera.  Please note that he's not looking at me...he was a bit shy after I did my initial head nod of acknowledgement, which he reciprocated.  
That's when I leaned over and started with my questions...and then look at how he lit up:
He gave me pointers on where to stand to best view the auction [the right hand side away from where the majority of the tuna actually was], why they were feeling the tuna & what the flashlight was for [density and firmness and a rich fatty tuna], and where each fish came from [which region] and how they were split up on the floor.  He told me how to recognize the auction callers [they wear a special sign] versus the bidders.  He pointed out the ol' pros who can pick out a good quality fish with their eyes closed, both hands tied behind their backs as well as what cuts were used for what purposes.  He was an awesome addition to my tour.  Sadly, this only works if you understand and speak Japanese [or you have someone who does].  My  mom  asked if he just came over to chat or if I was talking to strangers again.  Duh.  We're all amazed that I'd never been kidnapped - I've never been good at the "don't talk to strangers" thing.

After we left the auction, we took a stroll around the fish market
Seriously, amongst all my family members, it's amazing that we didn't get killed by these carts. I'm half way convinced they were aiming for the stupid tourists [me].
I was tempted to try some of this but these things were seriously as big as my head.  Plus the lady selling this was M.E.A.N.  She was calling people stupid and telling them to go away.  

No trip is complete without a visit to a sushi bar.  Two popular ones are Sushi Dai [still haven't gone in there since I don't believe in lines...and there was one for this place] and Sushi Daiwa, right next door.  Both excellent choices and I really love my sushi chefs at Sushi Daiwa - they tell me my Japanese is good for a Sansei. [hee hee!]

I asked for permission to take photos but felt a little bad since I know they don't really like people wasting time taking photos...i took a photo of him on the downlow and he told me, "No, no...i'm a good looking man  so I LIKE to have my photo taken ."  Love that guy

The highlight of this day for me was when my 10 year old nephew said to me that the top 3 things he loved about Japan was (1) Clean Trains, (2) Cool Sights, and (3) GOOD FOOD - he loved the sushi bar!! So proud of him!! 


  1. What a truly unique experience Jen! You're a trooper for getting up so early but how rewarding!

  2. It really was!! This day was referred to as "D Day" for our group - no other day could ever match up to this day from the underworld...and it was only day 1.

  3. Wow, now that's some fresh tuna!! Looks like an amazing trip.

  4. YUM! I so want to do this someday! Unfortunately, I don't speak Japanese so I don't think I'd have quite the insider experience you did. Still, I want to go and have sushi for breakfast!

  5. Wow, what an experience. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Between you and Fuji Mama posting all these fantabulous posts about Japan I'm going to be forced to take a trip soon! Forced I tell you ; )

  7. Maria - thanks for visiting!!

    Paula - you really MUST! Rachael & I will have to lead a trip TO japan! we'd have so many people going with us!


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