They say if you are going to eat sushi in Japan do it at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.
The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood from cheap seaweed to the most expensive caviar, and from tiny sardines to 300 kg tuna and controversial whale species. Overall, more than 700,000 metric tons of seafood are handled every year at the three seafood markets in Tokyo, with a total value in excess of 600 billion yen (approximately 5.9 billion US dollars on November 24, 2013). The number of registered employees as of 25 January 2010 varies from 60,000 to 65,000, including wholesalers, accountants, auctioneers, company officials, and distributors. (Wikipedia)
We decided to check this market out with the intention of grabbing some lunch on the off-chance anything was still open. We got there at about 10:30 am (the market opens at 5am). Not surprisingly the activity for the day was pretty much over with exception of lots of hosing down things and large wagons of fish guts getting carted off to god knows where. The scene was a mass of activity and noise with people and fast-moving carts speeding in all directions. It was hard to know where to look next and having a camera up to your face was dangerous business (I almost got run down a few times, the shots were worth it I’m sure.) I’ll post some of my favourites when we get home.
We stumbled upon a place called Ryu – a narrow one-row sushi bar with lunch-counter style seating that sits you shoulder to shoulder with those that get in. It was a four-tiered fixed menu without substitutions – take it or leave it (we saw some leave it due to not being allowed to share or order individual pieces). Everything is made to order in front of you and the portions are large and varied. If sushi is your thing – and I am not talking about California rolls, if you eat sashimi most of the time, you will love this sushi. It was by far the best I’ve had and Daniela was extremely brave and adventurous in her participation. For some of us sushi can be like an ongoing evolution of acquired tasting. These tastings are mixed in with unforgettable pitfalls of bad experiences – stale or improperly prepared cuts of sushi. The bad experiences are hard to shake and can make a person really gun- shy when it comes to getting back on the wagon. Westerners have riskier odds I think when it comes to getting the real thing, and it can be very expensive.
It was one of those few meals that will stand out for me – so far there are five: a breakfast at a small farmers market in Israel, a fresh lake trout shore lunch on an island in Elk Lake Ontario, A dinner at Eigensinn Farm, A lamb tagine in Luxor, and now sushi at Ryu in Japan.
The rest of the day was spent on a cruise up the coast of Tokyo and a good chunk of time visiting Sensoji Temple where we snacked on lots of sweets, slurped hot strong matcha green teas, whiffed incense, watched weddings, and got our fortunes told. Overall there is just way too much to see here and way too much to do. Each turn we made revealed another street or district we wanted to explore. Tokyo is a wanderer’s paradise.
Tomorrow Daniela has planned a 9:30 am bicycle tour. I have yet to find out the details but I am sure it will be a hair-raising experience on some level. The locals here ride their bikes everywhere and it is not uncommon to have one swipe by you way too close for comfort or to pop out of a narrow street in front of you and send you reeling backwards. My bet is I rubber-neck once too often and broadside some poor tourist lolly-gagging at the sights.
It’s 8:30 and Daniela is falling asleep – jet lag is still taking us on pretty good. I am trying to stay awake as long as I can so to not wake up in the middle of the night like last night.