Friday, November 16, 2007

Tsukiji Fish Market

The Tsukiji Fish Market is widely known as the largest fish market in the world, and is a great place to start your visit to Tokyo. Arriving in Tokyo from the the U.S. means you're pretty much guaranteed to wake up at some horribly early hour (4:30 a.m. in my case), and since the market opens at 5:30, you can experience the madness first hand!

It's an amazing experience; a large warehouse packed to capacity with fishmongers selling the mornings catch, much of it alive, some larger catches flash-frozen, and all incredibly fresh. Not a single whiff of "fishy smell" will permeate your nostrils anywhere you go. You will see fish you've never seen or heard of before, you can watch a man slice through thousands of dollars worth of tuna with katana of a fish knife, or see eels skinned and gutted in record time.

Of course you stand still for any time at all entirely at your own risk and peril, as hundreds of motorized carts run at breakneck speeds up and down the tight, wet alleys between stalls. Getting bumped and knocked is to be expected; just try not to upset anyone holding a large bloody knife!

Surprisingly a lot of Japanese tourists are there as well; I think we saw more Japanese with cameras than gaijin.

Here are a few pictures; the full collection in in a [gallery]

After an hour or so of walking around the market and watching all that delicious fish being sliced and diced, you'll find yourself hungry for a sushi breakfast! Just outside the market are rows and rows of shops and sushi restaurants, where you can have the freshest sushi you've ever had, washed down with beer or sake, sitting next to chain-smoking Japanese fisherman… all before 7:00 in the morning. Perfect!

Enjoy a larger [photo gallery] here.

(Very) early morning in Tokyo

While waiting for my colleague to head off to the fish market, I grabbed a few shots in they stylish hotel lobby and outside the Shidome Media Tower in the frigid morning air. This hotel is in what appears to be a newly constructed business complex; there is still lots of road construction, and the buildings are all very new and modern looking.

Shidome Media Tower Park Hotel Lobby

Stairs up to the pedestrian bridge between buildings


Tea is the drink of choice in Japan, but in catering to western travelers, most hotels have some sort of coffee in the room. Every room I've ever stayed in in Tokyo has had an electric tea kettle and a selection of teas, and often has some sort of horrid instant coffee as an option.

This hotel has something I've only seen once or twice before, is very effective and surprisingly good! The single-use drip filter. Behold…

Mmm, a hot cuppa joe to start the day! Of course it's 4:45am but that's just fine, as it means I can go to the fish market!

Park Hotel Tokyo

Cool, trendy little place. Japan is just starting to do the 'boutique hotel' thing. This one's got it in the lobby, although the room is pretty plain. Nothing wrong with it at all, but a bit bland. The view is fun though.

Japan Land

Flight was fine, easy enough (or as easy as 12 hours in the air can be). Met up with a colleague at the airport and we rode the JR line train into Tokyo station. Nearly missed our stop… oops… guess we both figured EVERYONE would be getting off there! Good thing we asked.

From the Tokyo station we were both too hungry to wait until after check-in to eat, so we wandered until we found a row of restaurants. Nothing in English, no pictures, all Japanese in the joint's… perfect!

We ended up in a sushi place (honestly didn't even know what kind of restaurant we were in until they handed us a picture menu). A huge pile of sushi and several beers later and we rolled on out and off to our respective hotels.

We had some great sushi, including hamache, amaebi, some unidentified white fish, maguro, whale (!! -- although we were assured it's imitation, and it some other guest called it 'bacon'. OK we have no idea what it was, but it was tasty), and the winner of the night -- horse! Yes, horse. At least that's what he said. Red meat, served raw, very fatty, and unbelievably tasty. We ordered seconds.

Washed down with a beer or three, and we were two happy boys in Tokyo-land.

I couldn't tell you the address of this place, but there is a name on the first photo. If you find it, go!

Kassen Ichiba (ok for all I know that could say "eat here, gringo!")

rating: 4 feet
verdict: Try something you've never seen before, it'll be good! Honest!