Breakfast at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo, Japan

Not many know it but the strong Kanto earthquake of 1923 in Japan was responsible for the Tsukiji Fish Market’s location today. This awesome fish market started as an offshoot of the Nihonbashi market that was partly destroyed by the quake and fire. This got relocated to the Tsukiji area as soon as a modern market facility opened in 1935 to become the famous wholesale fish and seafood market that it is today.

I love markets so my keen interest on Tsukiji fish market does not come as a surprise. Nor was my second visit in the middle of this year, the first time being in 2014. But that is understandable because I love markets. For those who don’t but still love to eat, that is still enough reason to visit this place even if you are in Tokyo for only a few days.

If you are particularly interested to attend the famous Tuna Auction (source of those mouth-watering sashimi-grade tuna sashimi and sushi you eat in the nearby sushi restaurants and all over Japan) then you had better stay in the Tsukiji area the night before to make it to the limited access but free-entranced tuna auction which starts around 5:30 in the morning. If you don’t you may not make it to the auction because the subway trains do not start running til around 5 o’clock in the morning. So I suggest you sit around in the Tsukiji area in some overnight restaurant drinking and talking with friends while others kill time singing their hearts out in the 24-hrs karaoke establishments. Whatever is your fancy, make sure to wear comfortable shoes that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty and bring a jacket if you decide to drop by during the cold months.

If you are more inclined to dine for breakfast or brunch, then going there around 8am is pretty decent. It is both accessible by subway via the Toei Oedo Line or the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.

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Accessible by two subway stations, Tsukiji Market is just a few minutes enjoyable walk from Tsukijishijo Station and Tsukiji Station.
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Upon arriving in Tsukiji Market you may go around the ‘outer market’ area to survey which sushi restaurant to eat from. A good indicator are the long queues outside those tiny restaurants. While lining up, you can study the menu photos displayed outside with corresponding prices to compare.

When we arrived, we were not quite hungry yet so we opted to go around and check out what products were being sold by the vendors in the ‘outer market’ where wholesale and retail shops are located selling various seafood products ranging from the most common shellfish, to the melt-in-your-mouth tuna and salmon to the most controversial ones like whale meats. This area is also where you can find vendors selling vegetables, fruits, restaurant supplies, groceries as well as the various sushi restaurants located around this area.

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This vendor sells a variety of dried, processed seafood products like shrimps, eel, squid, oysters and fish as wonderful gift ideas to friends and families back home.
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If you are in a hurry and hungry but don’t have much time to sit and order in the sushi restaurants, you will find many ready-to-eat sashimi and other raw seafood vendors like these.
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Japan is big on fish cakes. This vendor carries many different kinds of fish cakes. I tasted a few and what I can say is that fish cake is an acquired taste.
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This seafood yakitori vendor is one of the most popular vendors in Tsukiji and clearly he is very annoyed with me and my camera. Yakitori is a manner of preparing meats, seafood and vegetables skewered in metal or bamboo sticks grilled over charcoal fire.

Finally we got hungry and chose a restaurant with a long line outside. At the entrance, there was a huge tuna head displayed on ice as if to welcome customers inside the nicely furnished restaurant.

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The restaurant we chose had this king crab and tuna watching over the entrance. The fresh, chopped tuna head on ice seemed to be telling us that fresh sashimis are being served inside.

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Inside, I sipped at the complimentary crab soup to warm my tummy and ordered the Aburi kaizen-don, a bowl with a variety of lightly burnt seafood like tuna, white fish, salmon, octopus, squid, scallop and shrimp served on rice with the mildest vinegar taste. So delicious!

After a hearty breakfast or brunch, it seemed to be the perfect time for dessert and what could be more perfect than fresh, skewered red and white strawberries being sold by vendors nearby. The white strawberry or ‘white jewel’ as it is locally called was created and grown by Yasuhito Teshima. The cultured, white strawberry has a hint of pineapple taste and is more expensive than the red ones. Personally, I prefer the sweet, tartness of the red strawberries to the albino ones at any given day.

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Strawberry vendors selling red strawberries and the more expensive white strawberry also known as ‘white jewel’ created and grown by Yasuhito Teshima. The perfect dessert nearby to clear the palate after a seafood meal.

As I walked around the market, I learned from our guide that as early as 1985, renovation plans of the Tsukiji fish market has been considered due to poor sanitation, dilapidated structure and lack of space. However as soon as projected costs ballooned and became too expensive, renovation plans were scrapped to instead relocate last year (2016) at Toyosu, a 40 hectare site. Unfortunately, this new site has environmental contamination issues as it was previously owned by Tokyo Gas Company, so the scheduled relocation in 2016 was postponed again for major clean-up efforts. Billions have already been spent to clean the new location site from pollutants such as benzene, arsenic, mercury and cadmium but many old Tsukiji fish market establishments are still reluctant to transfer to the new relocation site, still unconvinced of its overall safety.

Next projected relocation attempt is Autumn of 2018. So if you want to experience Tsukiji market as it looks today, make that visit soon!

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