Friday, May 20, 2016

Exploring Central Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market

We started out early on our first full day in Japan with the goal of exploring central Tokyo (if you missed my first post on our trip, you can read it here). I had a bunch of planning/tourist information stored on my phone but I freaked out at the last minute and bought a travel book just in case the internet failed me for some reason, or I lost my phone, or it underwent spontaneous combustion. Paranoid? Maybe. I prefer the term "prepared" ;). I picked up this Eyewitness Travel Guide just a few hours before our flight and it turned out to be a really good investment. There were so many things we wanted to see in Tokyo and the book did a really nice job of dividing the city up into sections (central, north, west, etc.) which really helped us plan out our days and make the best use of our time. This book in conjunction with the Japan Guide website were extremely valuable resources, and I'd recommend anyone planning a similar trip use these guides as a starting point. 

Our first stop was the Tsukiji Fish Market, which is basically a giant market full of all kinds of seafood, fruit, and vegetables. There are quite a few markets in Tokyo, but this one is by far the most famous, as evidenced by the hoards of people we had to push through to catch a glimpse of the merchandise. This is pretty much how we pictured Tokyo:
It was fascinating to walk through the various stalls and admire the endless variety of fish. Honestly, I don't think I could even identify 90% of what we saw, but it all looked amazing and really fresh. 
Apparently tourism at the market has grown quite quickly in recent years, and it's been a bit of a hindrance to business, as the venue isn't built to account for the day-to-day business operations along with a bunch of tourists. The stall owners and employees were friendly enough, but I definitely got the feeling that we were "in the way" a bit, especially in the wholesale fish area, where business was serious and hectic.

This guy was hard at work, sharpening a knife.
This is kind of a rebel photo, as there's clearly a request for "no photograph". To my credit, I didn't see the sign until after I took the picture, but the lady wasn't thrilled. 
This little restaurant on the outskirts of the market was run but the oldest, cutest man and woman ever. They had to have been in their 80s or even 90s and I was super impressed that they were still hard at work! One of the things that stood out to us in Japan was the abundance of elderly people who rode bikes or were otherwise extremely active. The elderly population seemed to be in great shape and enjoyed a level of mobility that is all but unheard of in other parts of the world.
These scooters were everywhere and they were terrifying! This is what really contributed to our feeling like an annoyance, as the drivers would speed down the small aisles, barely swerving around you. They definitely expected you to jump out of the way, or risk getting a limb cut off.
These huge tuna fish looked ridiculously good and were freshly cleaned. The market hosts a famous tuna auction, but there are a limited number of spots open to the public to observe. The earliest tourists line up before 5 am to secure a ticket, so we missed that boat by a good four hours.
Overall, the Tsukiji Fish Market was an amazing experience. It was fun and interesting to visit a market that wasn't a tourist trap, but instead a bustling and exciting business center. The outskirts of the market were definitely visitor-friendly, but the wholesale area felt really authentic and unlike anything we'd ever seen. It was the perfect first stop on our tour of Tokyo!

Check out previous posts from our trip to Japan below!

Arriving in Tokyo/First Impressions 


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Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



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