Tsukiji Fish Market. Sushi, Knives, Heaven.

Well I did my best the first morning by arriving at the Tsukiji Fish Market at 5 AM to be in line for the first-come-first-served admission to the tuna auctions. Unfortunately it was all booked out, and you have to get there before 3:30 am to reserve a spot! That’s just not going to happen being there are no trains running at that hour. Instead I chose to go today and browse the open market at a more reasonable hour. 

I arrived at 9 am, and found the place absolutely packed. Oh yeah, it’s Saturday… A bit discouraged, but I carried on. I made my way through the crowds at the main entrance and instantly knew I was going to like this place…

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Like a kid in a candy store

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To be honest I almost shed a tear when I saw this shop.

 The employees were super friendly and spoke some English, so I asked them to recommend me a “Santoku”, which is a type of knife around 7 to 8 inches, with a very slight bevel to the blade. It is, in my opinion the most versatile knife in the kitchen. I browsed a number of extremely expensive hand forged knives (one cost nearly $1800!), but being on a budget I settled for a nice carbon steel model which was only about $100. The employees took great care in wrapping it in 5 layers of newspaper, cardboard and bubble wrap, and told me very explicitly “Check-in luggage! Check-in luggage!” haha, thanks guys!

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“This is my knife, there are many like it, but this one is mine”

 Leaving the knife shop with a beaming smile on my face, I entered into the cramped and bustling corridors of the market. It was an assault on the senses, but the one thing I did not smell whatsoever was fish. Yeah this place is fresh!

The first shop to catch my eye was selling Tamagoyaki (卵焼き), which is a sort of fried egg on speed.

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Mr. Tamagoyaki

It’s made by folding dozens of paper thin layers of fried egg over one another to create a sort of egg cake. It is typically flavored with sugar and rice vinegar. Every version I have tried before has been way too sweet, but this…. this was amazing! super tender and a perfect balance of sweet and acid from the vinegar. 

I continued to politely shuffle and shove my way through the packed crowds in the narrow alleyways. I was offered a sample of some strange form of seaweed I had never seen before. I’m pretty sure it’s rude to refuse anything offered to you in Japan, but that doesn’t matter as I was going to eat it anyway. It was interesting, and very hard to describe, squidlike in texture with a melting finish, sounds horrible, but I assure you it was amazing. I ended up buying some dried seaweed as a gift for friends in Thailand. Thai people can’t get enough of the stuff!

I wanted to try every one of them!

I wanted to try every one of them!

I turned a corner and saw this huge decapitated tuna head on display, and a master butcher doing his dance. Unfortunately he had already filleted the majority of the meat from the carcass, so I didn’t get to observe the true handiwork.

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“Waddur Youuu lookin at?”

I was getting hungry after sampling all these new and amazing foods. Of course I was planning on eating sushi here, it’s the freshest sushi in the world! All I needed was a promising looking restaurant. To be honest I had no idea what I was doing, so I did what any confused tourist would do, I looked at the pictures!

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If you click and zoom to full size you can read the menu (100 yen=$1)

I was ushered in and blasted by the Sushi chefs yelling “Irasshaimase” or “Welcome” in unison. It was so loud I was actually shocked and just stood there for a minute before bowing half-assedly and going to my seat, pretty sure they’re used to that haha! I opened the menu and was relieved to see English, I was also relieved to see the prices were not astronomical. I browsed the menu and spent a good amount of time observing the chefs in action. The deftness with which they form the sushi is amazing. here’s a short video I took to give you an idea.

Knowing this was going to be a once in a lifetime event, I ordered one of the most expensive sushi platters.

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Grand total $45. I apologize for the terrible photo, the lighting was strange.

From left to right top row: Uni (sea urchin roe), Salmon Roe, Tamagoyaki, Tiger Prawn, Unagi (grilled eel with sweet soy)

Bottom row: Maguro (lean tuna), Otoro (fatty tuna, the best!), Toro (medium fatty tuna), Squid, Clam (I think?), and Mackerel.

I’ll just leave this one to the imagination, because I’ll never accurately describe the relish with which I consumed these recently alive fish. I’m pretty sure my knees were trembling. I walked out in a sort of blissful haze, not quite able to make sense of the commotion surrounding me. 

Everything after that lacked a certain luster, and I decided I had seen enough for the morning. I needed some decompression time, so I headed back to my favorite little coffin in the sky.

There are 2 comments left Go To Comment

  1. Dale /

    Your trip to Tsukiji is to someone who loves sushi, like Mecca is to a Muslim. I was taken by a friend of mine who worked there as a lugger while at the University of Tokyo. He introduced me to the owner of the shop he worked for, then took me to a little dive where locals ate. A trip as important as one to the Taj. I’m glad that you could do it as well.

    I bought my knives in Kyoto probably thirty years ago. Wonderful hand forged water steel, and as an added treat, they hand stamped my name on them!

    I’ll be following your “Grand Tour”. Be safe and not too cautious.

    1. Jesse Rockwell / Post Author

      Thanks Dale! Interesting story, and yes the sushi was a revelation. Can’t wait to use my knife when I get to a friends house in Bangkok! Thanks for following.

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