The Tsukiji Fish Market
Anyone who knows anything at all about Japanese culture knows how important fish is. It’s no surprise, given that Japan is an island nation, that fish feature prominently in much of their cuisine, and sushi is, of course, both popular everywhere and incredibly delicious.
For a portion of our stay, we were within walking distance of the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. You sometimes hear about this famous fish market as the place where restaurants from around the world send chefs early in the morning to attend auctions and bid on the freshest fish to take home.
The old Tsukiji Fish market had an inner and outer market: the inner market was where the real action was, a licensed wholesale market, with auctions and fish processing and things swimming around. It became so popular with tourists and sightseers, despite limited access, that the outer market eventually developed. The outer market was a mix of retail and wholesale, but it was also where ordinary humans could buy fish for dinner or snacks on the spot, along with knives, cooking utensils, and other supplies.
In 2018, the inner market was moved to Toyosu to brand new facilities, which now has a second floor viewing deck for sightseers. Alas, we didn’t have time to visit the Toyosu Market.
However, the outer market still remains at Tsukiji! And so one rainy morning, we made the trek.
We had no real game plan: we just arrived, and wandered. It was drizzling on and off, and so we were also playing it by ear depending on the weather and the kids. There were some portions of the market that were legitimately under a roof area, and others that either had tarps or nothing at all. We saw beautiful pottery, displays with rows and rows of glistening knives, bulk tea, and of course, a lot of seafood, both for immediate consumption and for taking home to prepare later, as well as sit-down restaurants.
One of the interesting things about Tokyo culture is that you’re not supposed to really eat on the move. If you get a drink, you’re supposed to drink the entire thing at that location, whether it’s a vending machine cold drink or a bubble tea, or else you take the entire thing home with you. Perhaps it’s chicken or egg, but Tokyo is also an incredibly clean city, with also very, very few garbage cans, so if you have garbage, you also take it with you.
That’s to preface the fish market experience. When you get food, like skewers, or a small tray of sushi, or a bowl of noodles, there is often a small area where you consume it, sometimes standing tables, sometimes just a square metre of space against a wall, and appropriately marked garbage bags for you to dispose of your toothpicks or napkins. This isn’t an eat and wander type of deal.
While I love my kids and I love traveling with my kids (usually), this was one time I would’ve loved an hour or two with some adventurous adult eaters. Caleb (4) and Naomi (1.5) are both fairly good eaters, I have no real complaints about their willingness to try new food or to eat food in general, but—we’re Chinese, so the bar for adventurous eating is pretty high. Just imagine: squeezing into a tiny hole in the wall to eat a bowl of hot noodles, or not worrying about dropping an oyster on the ground (sacrilege!), or not having to negotiate hot meat off a skewer into a tiny mouth.
I love my kids, though, really.
Currently located: Mong Kok, Hong Kong
Currently reading: Kowloon Tong by Paul Theroux
Currently drinking: an instant coffee stick
Currently listening to: the drone of an audiobook that’s hopefully going to keep the baby napping for another hour
Current mosquito bite count: 16
Currently grateful for: AirBnB apartments that come with a rice cooker
Currently contemplating: whether or not I should get rid of some clothing so I can bring home more stationery, or whether I should just buy another luggage