We only got 4 hours of sleep, but we dragged ourselves out of bed to leave at 3:30am for Tsukiji Fish Market. In order to watch the big tuna fish auction, you need to get there early since they only allow 120 visitors. Registration opens at 5am (sometimes at 4:30am if there are a lot of people) but our hotel told us in order to be guaranteed a spot you should be there at 4am. A $40 cab ride later (flag drop is $9 in Japan!), we got to the Fish Market at 4am and were the 12th people in line. Doh! I think we probably could have used that extra half hour of sleep.
After registering at 4:30am, we still had to wait an hour in the holding room before we could go in and see the fish auction. I took a short nap on the floor hehe. Even though it was so early, the fish market was hustling and bustling. All these men were walking around in galoshes and trucks were whizzing around filled with Styrofoam boxes filled with seafood. Tsukiji is the world’s largest seafood market. In the tuna auction room, all these enormous tuna are on the floor and tagged. Men walk around inspecting the fish very thoroughly. They slice off a chunk of the tail and the inspectors come by each fish to pick a chunk out, rub it, and look at it closely with a flash light. They can tell the quality just by looking at it and feeling it. It was funny because most of the men kept coming back to a few select tuna—they must have been the ones that would get the most competing bids.
Once the auction starts, a man stands on a box and goes through each fish in a sing-song voice. I guess they talk extremely quickly in every auction? As soon as the bids are settled, the fish are all tagged with pieces of paper and then get moved to another room to get cut up and shipped to wherever their destination is.
A quick 30 minutes in the auction area and that’s it! We woke up at 3:15am for that. Well, it was a once in a lifetime thing…I probably wouldn’t do it again but it was good to see it once. My classmates went when we were in Japan in 2007, but that was back when I was 25 and up all night partying. =) Afterwards, we headed to the sushi restaurants at the market that are known for their extremely fresh fish and you get an omakase set for 3,500 Yen ($45) each. Sushi at 6am? Sure! There was already a long line outside of Sushi Zanmai, which is the most famous. We didn’t feel like waiting in line so we snagged a spot at Sushi Daiwa a few doors down, which is supposedly just as good.
The sushi was pretty amazing. It’s tough coming from New York though, where you have the best of everything. I still think the sushi at our favorite place in New York, Ushiwakamaru, is king at its price point. By the time we left, there was definitely a line outside—good thing we snuck in early.
After breakfast, we walked around the market which sells everything a normal market has: fruit, vegetables, meat, plates, knives and more.
We thought maybe we would have enough steam to keep sightseeing after the fish market, but we were exhausted from such little sleep. So back to the hotel we went to take a long nap before getting up again!