Got up moderately early as I continued to overcome my jet lag and went over to Shibuya station. I got a better picture of famous Hachikō statue. Then it was off to the Tsukiji fish market.
Tsukiji is arguably one of the most amazing fish markets in the world. Every day, fishermen bring their nightly catches to the market. Madness ensues during the unloading and nearly instant auctions for the fresh catch of the day. They are usually well in swing at 4am sharp – so one has to arrive very, very early. I had several friends who braved the early morning madness. While they said it was a great experience, they didn’t know if it was really worth getting up that early for it. So, taking their advice and hoping for a nice full day instead of getting up insanely early then needing a rest mid-day, I went a bit later at 9am.
Upon arrival, I decided to get some food. And why not have what is arguably some of the best sushi in the world? Here’s a picture of the lines outside Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai – two of the most famous and probably best restaurants in the market. These two sushi shops are a father and son pair next door to each other. Sushi Dai is the father’s shop on the right and often has a 2-3 hour wait from the time they open at ~6am till 1pm when the close. I opted for the son’s shop Daiwa Sushi on the left and waited about 30-45 min before I got a seat. I had a nice chat with two Korean journalism students who were working abroad in Japan.
You take a seat at the very small sushi bar. It only seats about 12 people and the cooks are hard at work. I decide to take their 10 piece ‘set-menu’ option with the chef’s choices of the day. At about $35, it was also a pretty darn good deal too. I place my order and sip on my tea.
The sushi arrives as you eat. As you eat up your first round, without even asking, the super-friendly sushi chefs simply leans over and delivers the next few pieces. I start working my way through the chef’s choices.
Does it live up to the hype? Yes! You can tell this sushi is of another level all together. Since these fish were swimming in the ocean only 12 hours before, you simply cannot get much more fresh – and it shows. The tuna is particularly extraordinary as it pretty much melts on your tongue and barely requires you chew. Tuna (and other fresh fish) that has been stored or sits around tends to pick up more and more of a rubbery texture and looses it’s flavor as it sits/is stored. This had none of that and was of a very different melt-in-your-mouth texture. Each of the pieces was absolutely fantastic. In fact, I just kept ordering until I couldn’t have another bite. It was the best $45-$50 of sushi I’ve ever eaten.
While I most certainly had the best sushi I’ve ever had, I will admit that claims of near-religious experiences eating it are a bit over-blown. Would I go again if I went to Tokyo – absolutely and without hesitation! Would I recommend everyone who likes sushi to go to Tsujiki and try one of these two place – absolutely! Is it a near must-do for anyone going to Tokyo that likes sushi? Yep. But let’s just not get too carried away. Go do it, and experience some of the best sushi in the world; but don’t let the hype over-blow it for you. 🙂
Upon finishing my food – you find that you enter in the front and exit out the back. As you walk back past the washing station, you pay a hurried lady in the back and find yourself in the alley in the stacks of preparatory materials. I make my way back around front, and find that the line for Sushi Dai has barely moved. Seems to be I made at least partially the right choice if the difference between the two is marginal.
But this isn’t the only eatery in the Tsujiki area. There are rows and rows of places serving sushi, yakitori and all other manner of food. All of these places would blow your average eatery away in the states. So if you’re pressed for time and can’t wait for Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi – definitely try one of these others out and you’ll probably get a 90% experience as well.
But don’t stop there! Keep going through the rows and rows of shops just north of Tsujiki. Shops sell things that just came from the fish hauls/sales a few hours earlier. You’ll see just about every bounty from the sea there – fish, mussels, octopus, tuna, etc. You’ll also see all manner of farm vegetables along with nuts, fruits, and all kinds of things I wasn’t sure about. It’s absolutely worth a walk through and wish I’d actually spent more time there.
But the shops weren’t all fish and food. There were also pottery salesmen as well. I picked up a number of very cheap dishes and had them packed well. We’ll see if they survived a ship back to the United States when they arrive here.
Here’s another amazing find. Masamoto knives is hidden among the stalls. Unfortunately, they were sold out of a great number of their knives when I went, but I picked up a beautiful 9.5″ specimin for ….well… a good bit of money. But you are getting just as much of a piece of art as you are a working tool. I am anxiously awaiting it’s arrival as I had it shipped back to myself. 10″ knives aren’t the most clever things to bring in your carry-on luggage.
But this was just the morning adventures! On to part 2…