Japan, and in particular Tokyo has long been a place that has intrigued me. I have been to Japan several times, but other than one 22 hour layover, on those other trips I did not leave Narita (and one unplanned stop at Haneda…). I was excited to finally have the chance to spend a little time in Tokyo.
I hit some tourist highlights of the city on my previous whirlwind trip, but one thing I was interested in, but unable to visit on that trip was the Tsukiji Fish Market. That is what this post will primarily focus on.
Since I was going to spend a day touring Hiroshima after my 787 flight, and I wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt for at least part of my time in Tokyo, I planned this portion of the trip in order to be able to partake in the early morning tours of Tsukiji. Given the time change from home, I figured my first full morning in Tokyo would be the right time for this. Tokyo taxis are very expensive, and since the early morning activity at the market begins before the subways start running, I decided to stay in a hotel near the market.
I was traveling alone, so I tried to stay pretty economically. I can sleep most anywhere, and I even considered a pod hotel for the novelty of it, but given my height, I didn’t think this would be very comfortable. There aren’t ‘cheap’ options in Tokyo for my preferred hotel chains, so I went with convenience, and booked at a hotel a few blocks from the Tsukiji Market.
I stayed at a hotel in the small Japanese chain called Tokyu Stay. It is intended for extended stays, since rooms although tiny by US standards, have a washer and dryer and limited maid service.
After my arrival at Narita, it was a bit of a drastic change from the luxurious treatment I had had thanks to Lufthansa. I was on my own to get into the city, and I took a train from Narita to the subway to get to my hotel. Once at the hotel, I was way too early to check in, and despite a significant language barrier, I was able to store my bags, and then went off to explore Tokyo.
This is kind of a cliche photo taken by westerners when visiting Tokyo. Various vending machines are everywhere! Beer machines are not as common, but these were near my hotel.
Assorted photos from Tokyo:
the Empire State-like Docomo building in Shibuya
The Meiji Memorial Gallery
Nippon Professional Baseball was on its all star break during my trip, but I did see some amateur baseball in a park.
VitaminWater – “Worldwide partner and best mate”. huh? Maybe it sounds better in Japanese
National Olympic Stadium, home of the 1964 Olympics
After a day walking (and riding the subway) around Tokyo, I returned to the my hotel to check in, shower, and get some dinner nearby.
Tight but functional quarters at the Tokyu Stay Higashi-Ginza
I did my best to stay awake until a reasonable time to attempt to adjust for the time change. I had an early alarm clock so I could head over to the Fish market, to get in on one of the Tuna auctions.
It was raining hard in the morning, and I got a little lost, but eventually made it to the meeting point, and I was one of the last people to make it in, just after 5am (2 groups of 30, and I was 57!)
In all, the auction was a very interesting experience, although it wasn’t clear to me what was happening the whole time. The buyers use a hook to move the frozen tuna, and examine the meat. In some cases there are small samples of meat sitting out, that also gets examined.
I got some laughs out of the rules and guidelines. Here are some of the rules:
Trendy fish buyer at the auction (he has no lenses in those glasses!)
After the auction, I went on the lookout for some food. Sushi for breakfast likely sounds a little strange for most western palates, but it doesn’t get any fresher. Even before 7am the wait can be significant for some of these places. I looked for a place that had a reasonable line, and didn’t have an English menu.
Exterior and interior views of where I had this sashimi breakfast:
After breakfast, I went back to the public parts of the market as they opened up. It was an eye opening experience. Tuna was prominent, but there were many other options as well.
After visiting the market, I headed back towards my hotel. A few more sights along the way:
An impressive knife shop near the market
A guy who recycled a paper bag into a hat.
I have to admit, I didn’t expect 2 photos showing trendy Japanese fashion sense in this blog…
After my early morning at the market, the first leg of my stay in Tokyo was nearly over. I packed up and checked out of the Tokyu Stay to make my way to Haneda Airport for my 787 flight to Hiroshima.