On our first day, I made the decision NOT to get up at 330am and catch a cab, get in line, and take a chance at checking out the tuna auction at Tsukiji Market.... a 20 minute cattle call. Heresy, I know. It's not that we don't wake up early; heck I wake up at 5am during the week, jet lag always wakes us early on our trips as well. Remember us walking around Hanoi at 430am? If you're a regular reader, you do know I love visiting markets when travelling. It's amazing what you might learn and see. I've even been to various fish auctions, in both Hilo and Oahu, and heck even in Djerba, Tunisia. Instead, we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood, then stroll to Yotsuya Station and heading off to Tsukiji at around 630.
We were told that the Yotsuya area was historically a Samurai and Ninja District:
"Honshio-cho & Sakamachi are located in front of the ministry of defense,between Yotsuya, Ichigaya and Akebonboashi station.
There were two big Ninja group.Iga school and Koga.The top of Iga was Hanzo Hattori, his name is still kept at the gate of the Emperor's palace and as the name subway line. Koga Ninha residence was located in Honshio-cho and the entire district was a fortress, isolated from other area."
Indeed, the gravesite of Hattori Hanzo is located somewhere nearby at Sainen-ji temple. And no, it's not this Hattori Hanzo. The story of the REAL Hattori Hanzo is much more fascinating. Unfortunately, there are a ton of temples in the area, so we never found Sainen-ji Temple, which, in addition to having Hattori Hanzo's gravesite, also has Hattori Hanzo's spear. Next time....
Yotsuya is also prominently mentioned in the famous ghost story Yotsuya Kaidan. Like Hattori Hanzo's reappearance in Kill Bill, there's a connection between what is called the most famous "obake story" of all time and a modern retelling of it.
Like many neighborhoods in Japan, I'm sure there are a thousand stories for every block of real estate.
We managed to only visit a few places, really not knowing the significance of them. Hopefully, one day, we'll be able to visit again and get an understanding of the history of the area.
As it is, we ended up back on the main street and walked on over to Yotsuya Station and arrived at the Tsukiji-shijo Station at 645. From there it was a slam dunk finding the market.....just follow the dude in waders carrying wicker baskets....
Namiyoke Dori Street is the main street for the market. It is also probably the easiest way to find the entrance to the outer market, which is basically the retail area for Tsukiji. In some ways, I found what was here more interesting, though the Inner Market is more fascinating . This area opens at 5am, whereas the Inner Market is not open to the public until 9am.
Anyway, here are some photos. I tried to do things quickly....there's nothing more irritating than some butthead stopping in the middle of the street blocking folks trying to actually do some business, setting up his gear.... "ooooh, it's wasabi!"
I really loved all the pickled vegetables...tsukemono and the like....
There's a huge section of just tamago.....
I think you get the point, right???
Whew....need a break? Head on back to Namiyoke Dori. There's an area with vending machines right next to the info center....which doesn't open until 8am BTW. Still, you can grab a seat, next to bunch of other folks, many of them looking like vendors from the market taking a break and grab something refreshing.
And take in the street scene.
Right at the end of Namiyoke Street, right before you turn into the main market area is Namiyoke Inari Shrine. People believe that this shrine guards and protects the market. When it was built during the Edo Period it was at the water's edge. As it is; the shrine is functional. We saw several workmen come by while visiting.....
The Missus really loved this shrine. Mainly for one rather charming (in my opinion) reason. To the right, of the entrance lies a few shrines and monuments. One of them, picuted to the right is the "Tamago-zuka".... that's right, the monument to the egg, probably the Missus' favorite food item. This is part of the "sushi-zuka" monuments to sushi residing on shrine grounds.
The one to the far right in the photo below is the monument to shrimp! You gotta love it! We loved this little shrine.....
It was now about 830...still a bit too early for the wholesale market which opens to the public at 9am. Perhaps it was time for some breakfast. Time to queue up with all the other toursts at one of the sushi places in the market, right? Not so fast Kemosabe. First, the last thing I wanted was a rushed tourist class sushi meal, elbow to elbow with a bunch of other toursts. Second, I had reservations at a sushi place for lunch. Tenfusa, a small, 2 table and four bar seat tempura place sounded just right.
We walked in, away from the chaos and lines at Sushi Dai and Daiwa on the same alley, to a quiet little oasis. THe guys eating at the counter seemed like regulars; they all knew the woman running the front of house. This was my kind of place.
The Missus still had Her heart set on having some fish at Tsukiji; so we ordered the maguro sashimi, which wasn't the highest grade of fish; but super fresh, and a bargain at 500 yen ($5).
I ordered the Tendon (1100 yen - $11), a very generous portion of rice (does anything other than a generous bowl of rice exist in Japan). Man, this was tasty....the green bean was great. The shrimp had that pure shrimp flavor I recalled having as a child. The Missus prefers "American tempura" the hard, laquered version..... The fish was sweet, I attempted to ask what it was and was told "megochi" - flathead, something I don't think I've ever had.
A very nice breakfast.
Uogashi Yokocho Building #6
Tsukiji Market 5-2-1
After breakfast we headed first to the Vegetable and Fruit Wholesale Market, then the Seafood Wholesale Market; dodging the turret trucks and scooters.....
There's a kind of intensity to the Wholesale Seafood Market; after all it is one of the largest wholesale seafood markets in the world and probably the best known.
Everything you've read or heard about Tsukiji....well, it's probably true. If it swims in the sea you'll probably find it here.
Honestly, I should have taken a ton more photos, but I was so mesmerized by what I saw. Plus, I really didn't want to be one of the many who just stuck their cameras everywhere.
Tsukiji is amazing, just as everyone says......
Thanks for reading!