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February 26, 2008

breakfast at tsukiji


At 7:10 in the morning, I was sat there at one of the small bars near the busy fish market, to a bowl of ultra-fresh sashimi chu-toro (medium-fatty tuna), salmon roe, and sea urchin on rice, along with a bowl of miso soup with clams. A sheer pleasure. Worth getting up before dawn and travelling almost one hour on the train for? Oh yes, I'd say, especially when it is with a good friend of yours who doesn't mind getting up before dawn and travelling almost one hour on the train to share the pleasure of having rather "special" breakfast with you. Well, actually, in her case she might not have had to travel one hour for that particular morning, although she did travel well longer than 12 hours flying in from Los Angeles the day before!

Now, done with our breakfast but not with chatting (two girls catching up after more than a year, what else would you expect??), we set off to explore the market district, with our eyes already on something for lunch!

*Pictures (from top left to bottom right): a sashimi tuna & rice bowl bar; our sashimi breakfast at the bar; outside an inner market building; a small Japanese sweets shop; walking down an aisle inside the inner market; inner market stalls; fresh oysters sold at an inner market stall; paper lanterns hung outside a shrine near the market; a wooden lion head enshrined at the shrine; shaved dried bonito sold in bulk at an outer-market shop; a globefish shop in the outer-market; a rice ball shop in the outer market. I didn't take too many photos there, as I thought I'd end up scaring some of you with images of raw, whole fish and seafood. And quite frankly, the sight of the massive amount of raw fishery products was rather overwhelming even to myself.

Going to the Tsukiji fish market for breakfast was long on my "bucket list", and it was great to finally get it done. Ideally, in my head, I'd have drunk through the night and have breakfast there before going home, but maybe it is for another time and for this time I did sleep at home the night before and did manage to get up early.

Although it wouldn't typically take 12 hours for most of us living in the Tokyo area, going down to this downtown fish market still is a bit of excursion. Or so it seems, perhaps because of the fact that you have to start travelling quite early in the morning to see the better part of what is going on; as is the case with any fresh food market, Tsukiji starts early and slows down early, too, with many businesses closing up for the day by midday. And here I am talking about jogai, or the area called "outer market" consisting of a cluster of eateries and retail shops where you can buy, eat, and generally poke around as you please. Jonai, or the "inner market" on the other hand, gets busiest even earlier - between 5 and 7 am -, with wholesalers and licensed buyers, but not the general public or tourists.

While you can still buy your fish, really fresh, from small stalls in the inner market, I didn't see too many random shoppers hanging out in there - in fact, nearly all non-market workers I saw in there that morning were non-Japanese tourists; in this regard, Wikipedia again is quite right in its remark that "[the Tsukiji market] is a major attraction for foreign visitors (few Japanese casually visit the market)".

The inner market aside, though, Tsukiji still is a fun place to visit for fish lovers or otherwise, if you fancy a taste of Japanese food and old Tokyo downtown townscape. Tsukiji might be best known as the country's biggest fish market, but it has a lot more beyond fish and seafood - fresh vegetables, kitchen tools, tableware, and even some fishy souvenirs. Make sure you start your day early, eat your breakfast early, and might as well grab some food for later, perhaps early lunch!

I left the place with some rice balls (fatty salmon belly, cured tuna and sesame seeds, and oyster) from a rice ball shop and Japanese-style omelettes (chesnuts and duck) from an omelette shop. And my ultimate treat among treats, flown fresh from its country of origin. None of these lasted very long, as I supposed market food should be consumed immediately, right? ;)

15 comments:

Jan said...

Hi! I happened onto your blog and I've skimmed through it, but I must confess I don't really dare to read too much of it because I know it'll make me crave the food!! LOL. And that would be really bad because I'm far far away from Japan......

I must say your photos are really beautiful! I've just started taking an interest in photography and am thinking of buying a better camera; could you tell me which camera you use and what lense?

I promise to come back and read your blog from beginning to end before I next go to Japan. I've always wanted to have breakfast at Tsukiji! You must tell me which restaurant is best.

Thank you for such a lovely blog :)

Eric said...

Great shots Chika! You're a surreally talented photographer.

Liz said...

Your photography is making me hungry. The breakfast adventure sounds like fun!

sara, the wine makers wife said...

I have always wanted to do that as well! I am so glad you did!! More photos!!

Jeff D said...

Mmmm....I miss Tokyo. The best sashimi I ever had was in Tsukiji.

DomesticShorthair said...

Oh, that all looks sooo good! I had the best sushi there when I visited.

Anonymous said...

Chika,

Wonderful photos as usual. You must get a zillion requests asking what kind of equipment you use (I sent you the exact same email long ago...) Have you considered putting up the basic list (camera body and lenses) in your profile?

Thanks again for the great blog!

tiptup said...

Tsukiji market is #1 on my list if I even make it to Tokyo. Thanks for sharing the lovely photos.

chika said...

hi there, thank you all for your comments and compliments!

jan - sorry about my late reply... my camera is Nikon D70 and lense is AF NIKKOR 35mm f/2D. and I can't quite tell you which Tsukiji restaurant is best, as I've only done there once!! must go back to check ;)

eric - arigato!

someone - yeah I have thought about doing a list... and kept procrastinating. although I really don't have much equipment to make a list of...

vanessa said...

just stumbled upon your post and although i was already excited for tsukiji, your stunning photos have my stomach yearning as it is. i'll have to do my trip (in just two weeks!) justice and come back with some lovely photos as well!

i hope to drop myself into the famous dawai for some mouthwatering fish.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I also stumbled upon your blog while searching for more information about the market. I will be in Tokyo at the end of this month and I can't wait to try sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market. Do you know when is the best time to go for breakfast sushi and when the lineups at restaurants start forming? How long would I have to wait if I got there, let's say... around 8ish? Thanks!!!

skye said...

What a lovely description of a Tsukiji morning, and beautiful photographs to go with it! I had breakfast there last month, but didn't take any photos in the restaurant because of the sign saying "no photography" but is wish I had. I'm glad I found your blog.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, the tuna auctions are temporarily suspended until Jan 15th 2009
http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/tsukiji-tuna-auction-no-tourists-allowed/

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Tuna Auction at Tsukiji became off-limits for foreign visitors because of bad-mannered foregin visitors.

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=tzBwtylHiqo

This was broadcasted all over Japan.

chika said...

ABOUT THE ACCESS RESTRICTION AT TSUKIJI (DEC 2008-JAN2009):


"... the metropolitan government has informed (...) of their decision to ban spectators at the morning auctions from Dec. 15 to Jan. 17." (Mainichi Japan, December 3, 2008)
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20081203p2a00m0na015000c.html


It's NOT that the tuna auction itself is being suspended, or the auction is off-limit to foreigners only.

The tuna auction is still on as per normal, but they are now NOT allowing in any unauthorized visitors, foreigners or Japanese.


The 'outer' Tsukiji area is still there, open to everyone. Although it will be even busier now, with more people coming for New Year shopping.