Note: This is a photo heavy post! And a warning to anyone who may be squeamish or who doesn’t like to see dead animals, there’s lots of pictures of dead fish ahead.
While in Tokyo, we visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market / Tsukiji fish market to see the tuna auction. We left our ryokan (inn) at the insane time of 4.50am to get there in time, as the tuna auctions start at 5.20am and finish around 7am.
I had heard lots about this market - that it is the largest seafood market in the world and that it handles over 2,000 tons of seafood per day and more than 400 different types of seafood. Well, I knew the market was busy, but I didn't know just how busy. And no one had ever said to keep an eye out for the death barrels!
What’s a death barrel, you say? That thing up there is a death barrel. There were hundreds and hundreds of these things, whizzing around at top speed, barely slowing for other oncoming death barrels and hapless tourists. There was a ban on tourists visiting the tuna auction between Dec 08 and Jan 09, and after being there, I’m kinda surprised that they lifted the ban. I'm surprised that they let tourists visit at all! The market is REALLY busy and I felt like I was constantly in the way (and about to be run over by a death barrel).
Nevertheless, we made it to the tuna auction area safely. One of the changes the market made after lifting the ban is that tourists can only view the auction in a designated observation area and no flash photography is allowed. Well, the observation area is a skinny little area of the floor that has been cordoned off, and it’s pretty tiny. We managed to just squeeze ourselves in to get a look at the action. It was fairly difficult to stay there for long as there were so many people – most people just seemed to content themselves in taking a couple of photos and then leaving.
After being in the tuna auction area for a while, we left and had a wander around the seafood stalls. So much seafood!
There was lots of interesting seafood for sale. I wish I knew what everything was!
Fresh wasabi - so amazing!
We also had a walk around the vegetable and fruit section. This was MUCH more sedate than the seafood area.
Afterwards, we stopped at one of the small restaurants inside the market for a sashimi breakfast. The tiny shop seated 10 people along a counter. During our breakfast, the owner gave us Japanese lessons. He was a real character!
On the plate we had tuna, bonito, octopus, a raw prawn/shrimp, and a cooked prawn. I particularly loved the bonito. It had a melt in the mouth texture and was delicious. The raw prawn/shrimp was also a revelation – it was very sweet and creamy. We were told that they were a specific kind called sweet shrimp.
Along with the sashimi, there was also rice, miso soup and pickles. They barely got a look in - it was all about the sashimi. Gosh it was a memorable meal, it was some of the best sashimi I’ve ever eaten, and definitely the best sashimi we ate on our trip!