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Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo

26 April 2017 Travel

Passagem Gastronômica - Tsukiji Fish Market em Tokyo

The first time I visited Tokyo, one of my biggest regrets was not being able to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market. So, on this last trip I made it a point to organize our schedule so as to leave enough free time to go on this tour. The Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo is the largest fish market in the world and every week about 50.000 people visit the market to buy and sell fish and other food items. The market is extremely frenetic and the best time to visit is early in the morning, when most of the sales happen, but it is also possible to visit in more dignified times in the morning (at 9:00 the movement begins to slow down and around 11:00 it is quiet). The market is actually a huge complex that comprises not only the stalls selling fish, vegetables and fruits, but also restaurants and shops selling kitchen utensils. By the way, many people come to the Tsukiji Market to eat sushi for breakfast. Some of the restaurants are extremely popular, such as the Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai, where the queue starts to form around 3:00 a.m..

One of the biggest question marks I had when I was organizing the visit to Tsukiji Market was if it would be worth it to visit the Tuna Auction or not, which is one of the most popular attractions in Tokyo. To visit the auction you need to get to the market around 2:00 a.m., with no guarantee that you will get a place – since only 120 people are allowed to visit each day – and if you do get a spot, then wait almost 3 hours in a room until the beginning of the Tuna Auction, which is around 5:00/6:00 in the morning (not to mention that the auction itself lasts only about 20 minutes).

I did a lot of research on the internet and found an alternative to the auction that allowed me to explore the market as a whole. There are several companies that offer the tour, but I read great reviews of the tour from Naoto Nakamura, who worked for many years at the Tsukiji Fish Market. We loved the tour (super recommended), as Naoto knew the market better than anyone. It even felt like a secret tour as Naoto was taking the group through small passages and letting us spy on some rooms that other people did not have access to. It was an incredible experience!!! We could spy on the room where the Tuna Auctions happen, we saw giant tuna being unloaded from trucks, witnessed the auction of sea urchins and we saw different market sections.

Even though it was a fascinating tour, it's worth mentioning that this experience might not be for everyone (since a lot of people don't like the smell of fish or market environments), because you have to get up so early, the market is chaotic and the conditions aren't great – wet floor, trucks passing by, etc. Worthy to note that for those who visit the Tsukiji Fish Market it is essential to make this tour using a closed shoe and preferably a waterproof one.

I confess that it was very difficult to wake up early to get to the market on time and the visit was especially gruelling for me, because I was on crutches and walking with them during 2:30 in a fast pace was not great. But it was definitely the highlight of this trip and something we will never forget! At the end of the tour we stopped to eat sushi at one of the restaurants that the tour guide recommended and it was an interesting experience but we don't think it was the best sushi we've ever had.

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