Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Caroline vs. Tsukiji Market

Back in February, when the days were shorter and colder, Clem and I decided to forego a full night's sleep one night and got up before the crack of dawn to have breakfast at Tokyo's famed Tsukiji Market.  Getting tickets to the tuna auction is difficult (though recommended for people wanting the full market experience), so we decided to just go for a sushi breakfast.

The restaurants open around 5am, but lines start forming long before.  We headed straight for Daiwa Sushi, which is highly recommended.  It was still dark when we arrived, and pretty cold because of the wind and dampness coming off the harbour, but within about 45 minutes we were beckoned inside the cozy restaurant, with about 12 seats lining the counter, on the other side of which the sushi masters were at work.

Confession time: I actually really don't like a lot of seafood.  I wish this were not the case since I love eating well and trying local dishes when I travel, but it is what it is.  So I was a little nervous as we were getting ready to eat.  There was no set menu from which to pick and choose; the sushi was prepared from whatever the restaurant had purchased that morning.  And not only is it rude not to eat what the chefs put down in front of you, but they also want you to eat quickly so they can keep the line moving (though, in true Japanese fashion, they won't actually tell you this).  So I armed myself with some tea and a beer, in case I needed some help getting the sushi down.

The sun slowly rising as we wait for breakfast
One side of Daiwa Sushi - looking in as we wait to be seated
Our sushi master

It was all pretty good - even for someone as picky with seafood as I am.  I ate everything, with the exception of one very strongly flavoured piece of mackerel that I just could not swallow.  Thankfully Clem eats everything, so I covertly put the piece on his plate and he ate it for me.  I did really enjoy a piece of fresh, fatty tuna, and I even ate a crispy shrimp head!  The chef could tell I was struggling, but he was a pretty good-natured guy and I think he appreciated that I gave it a solid effort.

After breakfast we had a wander around some market stalls.  We picked up some adorable cat bowls; I may actually go back before we leave and get some more so we have a full set of four or six.  The sun was up by this point and the outdoor market was buzzing, but unfortunately shop and stall owners are not keen on having photos taken, so I just observed quietly.  That morning was quite cold, so after a quick walk around we headed back home for a nap.

Tsukiji is definitely one of those quintessential Japanese things that all travellers to Tokyo should see.  Breakfast sushi is definitely more expensive than it would be at a conveyor-belt place in Shibuya, but the sushi served at Tsukiji is top notch.  Having a big glass of beer was a good strategy for me, and might be something to keep in mind if you want this experience but are on the fence about seafood.  If you enjoy seafood and sushi, however, I have been told by multiple people that the sushi at Tsukiji is the best sushi they have ever had.

My parents and brother are visiting in a few weeks, I hope they are ready for the Tsukiji experience!

xx, C.

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