Today I had a volunteer guide. I had set this up back in the UK. It’s a really good way of exploring, as you have the added value of a person who knows about the area. I had decided that I wanted to go and see Tsujiki fish market. Kaiko the guide met me at the hotel and we wandered through the streets to the metro station. She pointed out things i hadn’t noticed before despite walking these streets a few times already. The deal with the guide is that it’s free, but you have to pay their metro tickets, any food etc, which is quite a good deal.
So, we arrived at Tsujiki. We went to the outer market, tourists are now kept out of the inner market until 10am. This is because it was becoming too crowded with tourists, and when you have people trying to sell fish as their daily business and move that fish around, it all becomes a bit dangerous for the crowds. We stuck to the outer market.
Wow is what I’d say. If you ever come to Tokyo, the fish market is a must do. The variety of stalls, small shops, places to eat, the buzz of the place, small scooters zipping around with fish boxes, the hustle and bustle of it all. Amazing place to experience. Sample the food, even if you don’t know what it is! I ended up trying nori (seaweed) both in its dry form and in a broth like substance, wasabi beans (I bought 3 packets as I loved them so much).
I then sat in a small cafe, it wasn’t a cafe as such, just a small space that had 3 tables and a few chairs and a till. I, along with my guide, had a mug of greenish looking tea. It tasted fishy. And my guide bought me a small treat to have with the tea. I’m not sure what it was but the centre was like a paste made from some sort of bean, with a salty slimy rubbery outer coating. This is the offending article below:
Having then wandered around a bit more, we decided to go eat some sushi before everywhere was knee deep in a queue. My guide went back to the guy who had sold her some seaweed to ask where was a good place to eat sushi. So. We ended up in a tiny cramped space between 2 food stalls, in front of a heavy plastic curtain. Like the ones you see in films where they have meat hung up. A small note on the curtain was in Japanese. My guide peeked through the curtain and lo and behold there were 6 people sitting at a tiny bar while 2 chefs worked the other side of the bar, making sushi and chanting to the 6 customers in Japanese. I would never have got to experience this without my guide as none of the chefs spoke English.
We sat down and we’re handed a mug of that green tea type stuff again, but this was really strong, which I didn’t like. We then were given a list in Japanese and price along the top. We opted for the cheapest price. I thought we would have a couple of pieces of sushi and move on. No. I had about 10 pieces (11 if you count the raw octopus that I couldn’t chew!) and a bowl of miso type soup and egg roll.
Sushi from here is like nothing you have tasted before. Forget sushi you get in the UK, it compares in no way at all. These portions are quite big. I did manage with the chopsticks though. I had raw squid, mackerel, octopus, scallop, red snapper, tuna amongst others. Amazing. The taste was so fresh and the fish felt like it melted in your mouth.
It was amazing to sit in that secret, hidden away place and eat sushi, Japanese style. Something I could never have done without my guide. I would highly recommend one if you ever come to Tokyo. Once we had finished, my guide chatted with the chef, I paid and we left to much bowing and arigatos. That was an experience that will stay with me for a long time. Amazing.
We then visited a temple next door to the fish market, the Buddhist Tsujiki Hongwanji temple. It looks Indian in style, and it’s built to replace the previous less sturdy one that was lost in an earthquake. Again, a beautiful building, as all old Japanese buildings seem to be.
Then it was on to Ginza. Shopping heaven if you are into designer brands such as Cartier and Chanel! We weren’t there for the shopping though, an art exhibition instead. Well, it was more glass blown designs, taken from shapes the artist had seen when looking through a microscope. It’s not usually my type of art, but I really enjoyed this. The designs were all lit up to best effect and were so intricate and beautiful, it was impossible not to like them.
Then we went to a big department store in Ginza. In readiness for Valentines Day, the top floor had been turned into some sort of chocolate heaven! My guide told me that on Valentine’s Day, the ladies have to give their boss chocolate. Thus the set up on the top floor here where the top chocolatiers from around the world had set up stalls, where you could taste the chocolate, buy the chocolate or just marvel at the creations. My guide treated me to a pistachio and chocolate ice cream cone.
Oh, and I still haven’t got lost.