Tokyo, Japan: Tsukiji Fish Market, Ueno Park & Yoyogi Park
“So, we have to wake up at 04:45 if we want to see the tuna auction.” “Do you want to go?”
“Since we are in Tokyo, I think we shouldn’t miss this opportunity. Even if it means we will get less than 5 hours of sleep.”
I set the alarm at 04:45. Even before the alarm went off, my brain sent a message to wake me up from my deep sleep. It usually take me some time to be fully awake, but that time, it literally took me less than 5 minutes to wake up. I didn’t feel tired as I was excited! I couldn’t wait to see Tsukiji Fish Market and the tuna auction, which had recently opened to visitors. Tsukiji Market (築地市場), is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. The nearest metro station is Tsukiji on Hibiya line.
As the metro didn’t start until 05:10, we decided to take a taxi to get there. Not the cheapest option but I didn’t want to miss the once in my life time experience witnessing the tuna auction. Well, talking about tuna, I recall one article that I read on the internet about the depleted global stocks of tuna, which one of the key factors behind it was Japan’s insatiable appetite for it. Fish is Japanese staple food for centuries, it may be difficult but I think we now have to eat sustainable catches.
A taxi ride to the ever famous Tsukiji Market that is always flocked with visitors from Shinjuku will cost around ¥ 3,000. We quickly made our way to the auction once we arrived. We had to squeeze through the crowds to get a good spot to see the auction. Every gesture and word from the auctioneer didn’t quite make sense to me. But, in the end, all the gigantic tuna belong to some winning bidders. Tuna were then taken away.
We walked around the market to check out some stalls. Presented in front of the shops were freshly caught seafood and fish. Some were not identifiable. Japanese do eat a lot of produce from the sea. My initial thought was it must be expensive. But, after I checked out the prices and converted to GBP; I realised it was NOT expensive after all – for the choices and quality!
I witness how a gigantic tuna was prepared – wash and sliced into chunks. The knife used wasn’t a knife, more like a sword!
After a few minutes, we walked pass a shop. A friendly middle-age man looked at us staring at the big tuna. He was friendly looking and attempted a conversation with some basic English. We used our limited Japanese to ask if the tuna was delicious. He nodded and responded in Japanese, which we couldn’t understand. He walked away to reach for something.
Came back with him in his hand was a scallop shell. He said ‘spoon’. Without us realising, he used the clean scallop shell as a spoon and reached for the tuna in front of him, scooping out some tuna and placed it in a plastic box. “Try, oishii” he said and passed us the plastic box that contained some yellow fin tuna. “Chotto matte”. He poured some shoyu (soya sauce) in another plastic box.
Right in front of us was probably the freshest tuna sashimi that we were going to sample! I carefully dipped my portion of sashimi in the shoyu before putting it in my mouth. “That was just heavenly delicious! The tuna practically melted in my mouth without much effort to chew. The addition of the shoyu has brought out and enhanced the taste of the tuna, just unbelievable!” We were stunned by the freshest sashimi that we have ever had in our entire lives! We passed back the empty plastic boxes (my stomach was shouting: I want more!). We said many times of ‘Arigato gozaimasu’ and bowed many times before we walked away. Now, I understand the Japanese’s insatiable appetite for it!
Around Tsukiji Market, there are plenty of restaurants. It was only 07:00 after we have checked out most of the stalls. So, what’s next? All the restaurants have already started to serve breakfast. When I talk about breakfast, I am talking about having sushi or sashimi for breakfast!
Well, I have never had sushi or sashimi for breakfast before. We just walked around to see which restaurant to choose. We came across a restaurant that serves Chirashi. Chirashi is basically a bowl of sushi rice topped with sashimi. “Fancy that?” We decided to join the queue. When there’s a queue and there are many locals eating, then, it must be good. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take photo of my Chirashi, there was a sign in the tiny restaurant says ‘No photo.’ Anyway, my chirashi came in a medium bowl of sushi rice sprinkled with some black sesame, topped with a generous portion of sliced tuna, salmon, seabream and ikura (salmon roe). It was indeed delicious and I feel healthy to have such fresh sliced fish for breakfast!
With a happy stomach after breakfast, we made our way to Ueno Park (上野公園). Ueno Park is one of the most popular parks for cherry blossom viewings. This whole cherry blossom thing really made me go gaga over them! The Japanese appreciate every moment of it. They picnic in the park, with friends and family. While enjoying good food, there are those pretty sakura to look at! As you could imagine, I took lots of pictures of cherry blossom, they are just too pretty!
So many parks can be found in Tokyo. Yoyogi Park (代々木公園) is another one that you may want to check out. Yoyogi Park is one of the largest parks in Tokyo and it’s near to Harajuku station. On Sundays around the outer perimeter of the park, bands and individuals play music. The band often have generators and amplifiers so it can turn into a battle of bands. Again, during cherry blossom season, there’s nothing better to do but to enjoy the magnificent views of sakura and spend time with friends and family along with some good Japanese food! 😉
To leave a destination is difficult, let alone leaving a country that you are visiting. Somehow, some countries will make you fall madly in love with and will remain in your memory for life. Before we waved goodbye to Tokyo to our next destination, a must not miss is Tokyo tower (東京タワー). Tokyo tower is a communications and observation tower. Stands at 332.5 metres, which the structures is an Eiffel tower -inspired lattice tower that is painted in white and orange. The lights reminds me everything that I have seen in Tokyo that will remain in my memory for a long time.
Hello; being amazed after a photo "reportage" of clotilde from the chocolate and zucchini, i am now really jealous that I am not in Japan and I cannot see such a market. Thanks for those pictures.
Thanks for stopping by. Japan is really an amazing country. If you plan a holiday soon, Japan is highly recommended.
Wow!!! I so enjoyed this post. Your description of the the market, of the sashimi, and the photos … I feel like I am there. It’s true, we always assume everything is expensive in Japan, but people who go there regularly will tell you that it’s not, as long as you go where the locals go. Lovely cherry blossoms!! You’re so lucky to go at the right time. Some people go for the cherry blossoms, but end up missing them because they bloomed a week early (or late).
Things are not entirely expensive. Food can be so cheap too!
Yeah, I was lucky to be able to admire the cherry blossom …. sooo pretty!
You reminded me of our many road trips – waking up at 3am, so that we can be at where we want just when the day starts. It's true – the excitement keeps us awake anyway! and you were going to the famous fish market in Tokyo *envy*
Waking before 5am was well worth it.. hehe. I read that they will relocate Tsukiji out of Tokyo by 2012. If you plan to visit Tokyo and Tsukiji market, make sure you go before they move.
Thanks for the tour! I love to see some cherry blossoms in person..
The Peach Kitchen
peach and things
Thanks for the tour! I love to see some cherry blossoms in person..
The Peach Kitchen
peach and things
It's really an amazing sight!
The fish market is really an experience. And the cherry blossoms are so pretty!
Yeah!! Everything is just so worth it.
Today I just want a video clip of this fish market in the shopping mall. The way they bid in the auction reminds me of the US stock market. So exciting and interesting! Japan is really a good place to visit but expensive too. Love all your photos! They are gorgeous as usual! 😉
Thanks LK! It definitely assemble stock market.. hehe 🙂 Well, Japan is not necessarily to be very expensive. Food wise, it's really affordable.
OMG,…my dream place, twice I went to Tokyo with group of people, they do not allow tour group. Thank you for showing me how the place looks like…..erh, do you have any more pictures close up with the big fishes ?
I don't think I have a very close up one as we were allowed to stand at certain spot at the auction place. I do have one that is pretty close up where the big fish was being sliced.
Japan is amazing! I hope to plan a trip next year to coincide with cherry blossom. Beautiful pictures.
It is a fantastic place!! Cherry blossom season is really one of the most beautiful seasons there!
fish for breakfast i am not so sure but that market looked like an amazing experience!
Yeah.. raw fish for breakfast… yummy.. hehe
Oh wow, it looks like you had an amazing time there. I would have woken up for the fish market too! 😛
Yeah, I had a fantastic time there!
Many people told me once you try the Sashimi at Tsukiji Market or in Japan you won't eat Sashimi anywhere else. You are tempting me with all the beutiful pictures of Japan and I am even more eager to go there now 🙂
Yes, I think that's the best place to go for sashimi it was so fresh!
Amazing photos and a good story to go with it. Thank you for sharing! 🙂 I must visit this famous place one day.
Thanks Cheryl. you must visit one day!
Great post. The Tsukiji fish market was really a lot of fun and I really enjoy that trip. Because I was jetlagged it was easy to get up at 4am and be there bright and early, which is the best time to go. Your photos are really of the auction area. I couldn’t believe how much money the fish went for! I also took some photographs and did a report like post here: http://tylerfraser.com/blog/2010/06/01/tsukiji-fi… 🙂