TOKYO: TSUKIJI FISH MARKET

Most Tokyo must-do lists online suggest heading to the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, more commonly known as Tsukiji fish market for good reason: it's the world’s biggest fish and seafood wholesale market. The fish is ultra fresh, it comes off boats and is whizzed to Tsukiji before dawn where it is then set up for sale or auction. My best friend Jenny and I spent the night in an internet cafe (pretty common for Tokyo) and arrived as early as we could, around 530 AM. Other gaijin or foreigners must have got the same memo because they were out in full force, all of us making ourselves present at a most inconvenient hour.

By that time, the place is almost wholly set up. From a distance we watched the famous tuna auctions wrapping up and then we started to explore. Lingering around any one area was almost impossible because of the minimal space between stalls, the slow but steady influx of local buyers, and the whirring delivery vehicles so we glimpsed, took pictures and briskly moved on.

If you ever go, watch out for the delivery carts and keep out of their way. They drive these things around at break neck speed and there’s plenty of them making hasty deliveries. Even though I was trying to be careful, I felt like I was close to being run over at least four times. There's nothing quite like being scared shitless first thing in the morning.

The whole place is a little bit awe-inspiring. It runs like clockwork and they have vast quantities of everything you can imagine in the ocean in polystyrene boxes out of it. The fish is so fresh, you can’t even smell it and much of it is still alive. I saw sea urchins, all sorts of shellfish and crustaceans, octopus and squid, salmon, tuna and other things that don't figure in my personal piscine vocabulary.  It ranges from affordable to expensive to outrageous, and I wanted to buy some but settled on walking to the shops outside, to jogai shijo (the outer market) and had some prepared for me instead.

*This post is from my archives.