It was still dark when we got up at 4:30 AM to get ready to go to the Tsujiki Fish Market. By the time we made it onto the streets though, daylight was breaking and everyone seemed out and about. Even the weather was milder – a good start to yet another great day.
It was very easy to get to the market, but being *in* the market is very difficult. I don’t mind that the inside of the market itself nebulous, but rather that the experience of the market itself is not an easy one. While I love wet markets the best, this one was not nearly as much fun as I had anticipated. It’s hard to explain, and it’s not that it’s not incredibly amazing. It’s just that it’s a total madhouse. The size is gigantic. The isles are crowded. There are motorized carts charging down the aisles just asking to take you out. The fishmongers are sick of tourists. They look at you with disdain – forget about getting a good photo of anyone there and drop any fantasies about free samples. You end up being stressed and jaded all at the same time. It’s just a strange experience.
Just outside the market are the food stalls and restaurants, and it was funny to see where people were eating and where they were not. Out of all of the restaurants, 4 had lines outside of them, one even had a line going around the block. Clearly this wasn’t the handy work of a great chef, but rather of restaurants suggestions in the Lonely Planet guide as every person in line was white. The fish can’t get any fresher than this, and it isn’t even cooked or turned into rolls, so what’s the point of picking one over the other aside from price? And speaking of price, sushi isn’t any cheaper in Japan, and even less so outside of the market.
We headed a little bit further outside of the market and found a friendly spot to chomp on some breakfast sushi. The fish was fantastic, and the toro (tuna belly) was the best I’ve ever had. I was also happy to finally be able to try raw horse, which was something that I had missed out on the last time around.
All things considered, is the market worth doing? I’m not sure. I think that I would only recommend it to someone who is really crazy about food and dead fishes, as there are far better, friendlier and more photogenic markets out there. Remember: it’s closed on Sundays, on holidays, and the tuna auction is only opened to the first 150 tourists that show up earlier than when the first Tokyo Metro train. This market is a little hardcore, but that’s what makes it so unique.
Here are some extra pictures of the area around the market.
PS. Don’t shop at this store, which is in the area outside of the market. Not sure what it’s called, but you can’t miss all of the endangered species stuffed everywhere.