Monday, July 13, 2015

A Visit to Tsukiji Fish Market in April 2015

I had been to Tokyo several times before and finally decided to see Tsukiji before it closed down in the current location and moved to its new home in 2017.  Something like this happened in Hong Kong with the old wet markets, before they moved into new buildings decades ago.  The new markets didn't have quite the same character as the old markets as they never organically grew and were planned.  So, while I've seen fish markets before, I wanted to see the old Tsukiji, kind of like visiting the Radio Kaikan building in Akihabara before it was torn down and replaced with a new one.

Stopped at a Lawson to try the Lawson Red Chicken.  Strangely enough, I thought Lawsons were more common, but 7-11 seemed to be everywhere I went instead.
This is their famous spicy red chicken nuggets.  They were fairly tasty, but I wanted to try these as I heard that Bourdain liked them.

I should have known better and actually checked my route before I went to the market as I kind of winged it. I took the subway out to Tsukiji Station, then realized that Tsukiji Station is not near the actual market. It was a 10 or 15 minute walk through some residential and commercial neighbourhoods to get to the market. An iPhone with GPS and an offline map program are just great for this kind of situation. I actually saw some interesting things on the way over and it was a nice stroll through these neighbourhoods.
A street on the way to Tsukiji
I like the decor outside this bar.
I never saw these Godzilla ad campaigns for Kirin Fire coffee, then I found this old faded sticker on the side of a vending machine.  The weathering made this even cooler to see.
Vending machines outside a seafood distributor.
A small street with seafood distributors on both sides.  You can tell from all the white styrofoam boxes and the blue propane powered cart.

I came in from the northeast and entered through the road entrance by Namiyoke Inari Shrine, where the fishmongers and workers here come to pray and leave offerings for luck and prosperity.  It is an Inari shrine that was built on the water's edge in the 1600s. The name of the shrine means "protection from waves."  I had an interest in this shrine as it also has an altar to the tamago (egg).  I also like inari shrines as they have fox dieties, who also like inari sushi!  The tamago altar was something interesting at the shrine as tamago sushi is also a big item on any sushi menu!  Making proper tamago omelet is actually a standard skill to be mastered for any sushi chef.  When I was waiting to take pictures of the shrine I had the strong odor of smoked bonito shavings waft by and it turned out a shop behind me sold this staple of Japanese food.
Front of Namiyoke Inari Shrine
Inside the shrine grounds and the main temple.
Lion and altars.
Tamago Altar
Inari Altar.  Foxes with red bibs and offerings.
My first impression of the market was that it is BIG.  The scale is way bigger than any fish market that I have seen before.  There were dollies, carts, trucks, and people going everywhere with fish. I was here at about 9:30 in the morning and it was frenetic.  The scale and energy of the place was palpable and was part of the ambience with the old buildings and fish stalls that I'm glad I experienced.  It was well worth the trip.
Loading docks outside the main building.
Main Street inside the main building.
It started to just pour rain after visiting the shrine and I basically raced into the main building, a large building in the shape of a broad fat L from above.  There is a main covered street on the inside of the L and the rest of the building is hundreds of fish mongers.  There is some traffic control too as a security guard directed me to use a particular entrance and there were tons of tourists here on a weekday.

Some shops are large, some shops are small and in various states of upkeep and glitz.  Every shop pretty much has a series of low tables around it with tub after tub (or box) of fish, almost always on ice.   The floor is wet as you can imagine and is rough asphalt in some places, but it must get hosed down pretty good at the end of the day as there isn't an overpowering fishy odor (fresh fish helps of course!).  The main aisles are broader, but there is often just enough room for a person to walk between stalls on the side aisles.  Walking can be slow going as you are often stuck behind another tourist taking pictures or something picking up fish for transport or buying fish.
The crowds were thick with both workers and visitors.  The people that work here have a great deal of patience, but I'm sure it wears thin on some days.  I know I'd go nuts with all these tourists getting in my way when I'm trying to pull a cart of fish, etc.  So, thanks to the workers and shop owners for their understanding, and I'm sure they're proud of Tsukiji, a world class attraction.
Scenes from the market as a comic.  Too many faces, so I couldn't publish regular photos.
Sea urchins to crabs.
Fish.
Tuna being carved up.
Mackerel and more.
Octopus.
Squid.
Tiger prawns?

There was no way I was getting up early for the tuna auctions, but I did see one shop cutting up frozen tuna's with a band saw.  That was actually something to see!  There were so many people around that a security guard came around to move people on.  There were tons of fish on sale and plenty of types I had never seen before.
Frozen tuna to be cut up.
Cutting frozen tuna.
 Finally, my time at the market was over and I decided to get a slightly early lunch over at one of the sushi shops in the outer market.  The outer market is a set of lettered buildings around the main market.  This is where you find Sushi Dai and other famous sushi shops.  There was a steady downpour of rain now and there were still people who would wait 2 or 3 hours in long lines to eat this famous sushi.  I did not want to wait this long and went to a Ryu Sushi, a less busy place with a ten minute wait inside.  It is also in building 1 which is removed from the other shops.  The sushi was still very excellent and I ordered the pricier deluxe sushi set along with a small bottle of hot saki for a cool rainy morning - very nice!  Seating was all along a bar with the usual refrigerated glass case on the chef's side.  The chef placed a few pieces of fish on the bar in front of me as they were ready and I really liked tuna belly that was melt in your mouth good.  Next to me were three French tourists from Paris who were having chirashi and all the food looked good.
Lineups of people for one of the many sushi shops.
Outer market.

Ryu Sushi
5-2-1, Building 1
Chuo-ku, Tsukiji Market, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3541 9517
The menu.  I had the 3500 yen set.
You eat the sushi right off the bar with your hands and the fish already has wasabi added by the chef.  The warm wash cloth is for cleaning your hands (there is also a sink here for heavier duty action), and the hot saki comes in cute little bottles that are heating in special hot water warmer for them.
More yummy sushi
Yummmmm!
Rolls to end off the meal.
A large seafood distributor.
After great sushi brunch, I headed off to the nearest subway and to Ginza to visit the flagship Muji Store and more.


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