CategoryTokyo

Tsukiji Fish Market

I visited the famous Tsukiji fish market on Friday May 2nd. Here’s what I did, with my recommendations for how to do it better / improve (if you need any external validation, just ask becca plofker):

  • 5:17am – Wake up and throw on some deodorant, sneakers, and clothes. Make sure you wear shoes that aren’t slippery. The ground will be wet and you don’t want to slip and fall into some fish tank.
  • 5:25am – Walk to the fish market from my hotel in Ginza.
  • 5:35am – Meandered through the fish market, getting lost along the way. Finally stumbled upon the frozen fish auction in the back right side of the complex. I watched them auction off thousands of dollars of frozen fish.
  • 6:00am – Watch them take the fish from the floor of the auction and put them onto carts. They simply drag the fish along the ground with a crowbar. Not the most appetizing sight.

  • 6:05am – Walk through the rest of the market where vendors are selling the food that has been unloaded in the middle of the night. Every kind of edible animal that comes from the sea is being sold here. They were gutting fish, packaging it into resealable containers, and then selling it to Sushi chefs right in front of me. In the video below, I was afraid I would piss off the guy with the huge knife. In my imagination, he took the bigger knife / sword and chopped me in half. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

  • 6:35am – Walk to the restaurant alley to grab some sushi for breakfast. There were already a bunch of people in line at different sushi restaurants. I hadn’t done my homework about which restaurant I wanted to go to, but I figured that they all have access to the same extremely fresh fish and that I wouldn’t miss out. I was not disappointed.
  • 7:15am – Go back to the hotel, shower, and head to work. Not a bad start to the day.

It was an interesting experience for a bunch of different reasons. I have never spent that much time on a farm, so I’m not used to seeing my food in its original form before I eat it. There’s also a weird dynamic between the Japanese workers in the market and the loads of tourists staring at them with their mouths agape. It’s obvious that while you’re allowed to watch the circus that unfolds in the market, you shouldn’t be seen, heard, or get in the way of anyone. Workers drive around on carts that have a rotating wheel in the front, and they would no qualms about running you over. Seriously.

I think I timed it pretty well, but I think I could have gotten there earlier and spent more time walking around and enjoying the sights. I uploaded my photos from the entire morning earlier today. They had some funky looking fish on sale.

Hanami

The definition of the Japanese term Hanami is “flower viewing”. Usually, it is in reference to Cherry Blossoms (Sakura). I had the amazing privilege on a recent business trip to Tokyo to experience the peak of the blossoming flowers. Usually only lasting a week or two, it is a huge and wildly popular Japanese tradition (it’s kind of a big deal, is basically what I’m trying to say).

Flowers in Ueno

I spent all of Saturday, March 29th visiting three sites where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. I visited Ueno Park, Asakusa, and a park near Kudanshita station on the Hibiya line. Ueno park was an incredible experience because there were tons of friends and families having picnics underneath a very long path of cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms were incredibly impressive, but the aspect that caught me off guard was the setup each group was using to enjoy the surroundings. Each group brought a tarp, food, a bunch of alcohol. Coming from the US where drinking in public is not allowed and frowned upon, I was amazed to see the Japanese singing a little louder from what I thought was a little alcohol buzz. The other thing that blew me away was the fact that the area was teeming with Japanese people. There were a handful of ex-pats there walking in amazement, but the sheer amount of Japanese people enjoying the experience was impressive. If I were to view the flowers in Hanami again next year, I would considering coming back to Ueno Park with a tarp, a bunch of Asahi super “dry”, and some friends.

The next stop on the Hanami tour was Asakusa, northeast of the Imperial Palace at the end of the Ginza line on the Tokyo Metro. This park wasn’t as busy, but the distinguishing characteristic was the multiple street vendors selling goodies ranging from chocolate covered bananas to fish on a stick. I don’t see the Fish-on-a-stick concept catching fire here in Boston, but the bananas dipped in chocolate seem like a pretty good idea. Here’s also a picture of the locals enjoying their picnic on a tarp. I can’t describe how ubiquitous this is – I would run around Tokyo at night after work and find groups of co-workers and friends sitting on tarps in small gardens around the city being loud and boisterous.

Picnicers enjoying Asakusa Hanami Fish on a stick!

The sakura at kitanomaru park

The last stop on the Hanami tour was Yasukuni shrine and Kitanomaru parknear the Kudanshita station on the Hibiya line. This was definitely the highlight of the day. Even though the park it didn’t have picnickers enjoying the flowers, it was the most picturesque and had that indescribable “wow” factor. The flowers hang over a beautiful path that is next to a moat. You’re able to rent boats and row around the moat, but I didn’t have time at the end of the day. I had dinner reservations at a great sushi restaurant, and had to hustle back to my hotel so I made it to dinner on time. Along the way to the shrine there was a path filled with street vendors that reminded me of a carnival. There were games you could play to win prizes, and there was corn on the cob as well as fish on a stick. I doubt that combination is coming to the county fair anytime soon, though. The park (and the shrine) were perfect ways to cap off such an amazing day. If you’d like to see the rest of my photos, click here to view them.

It’s about time

I have been in Tokyo on an international assignment since the beginning of September (I came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas). I have been promising to deliver recaps of the cool places I’ve been, restaurants I’ve been to, and a general updates on how I am doing in Japan, but up until last week I hadn’t even sent photos out to my friends. Hopefully this is the start of me turning that around.I have started the process of uploading my photos online, and I’m going to start writing about them one at a time going forward.

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