We may have missed out on the famous tuna auction, but nothing was going to stop me having a sushi breakfast at Sushi Zanmai at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.
Prior to our trip to Japan, I had read a lot about the famous tuna auction at Tsukiji wholesale fish market, which is one of the world’s largest (and busiest) wholesale fish markets, handling over 2,000 tonnes of produce per day.
The tuna auction happens between 5:25am and 6:15am each day that the market is open. Up to 120 visitors are permitted entry in two batches of 60 (the first at 5:25am and the second at 5:50 am). There are no prior bookings allowed, entry is strictly on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are taken on the 1st Floor of The Fish Information Center at the market from 5:00am, and as places are limited, the queue starts much earlier. I had read that the queue started around 4:30am…however, when I checked it with our hotel concierge, he said that groups he had been sending down for a 3:30am queue start had only just been making it into the auction.
Now, I don’t know about you…but two to two and a half-hours hours waiting in a queue in the dark, just to see some giant tuna being auctioned? That idea was starting to lose its appeal for me.
So instead we elected to stay in bed until 7:00am, and then head down to the market for a sushi breakfast and a wander around the outer market, before the wholesale area opened to the public at 9:00am.
First we had to find Sushi Zanmai within the outer market. The outer market consists of a number of retail fish, fruit & vegetable and cooking supply stalls, as well as many sushi restaurants. Most of these stalls are open from around 5:00am until early afternoon. Sushi Zanmai, however, is open 24 hours a day.
Sushi Zanmai is a chain of sushi restaurants with about 30 locations around Tokyo. It’s not fine-dining sushi, but you will get good quality sushi at a reasonable price. And the staff in the Tsukiji one were super-friendly and fun.
At 7:00am, the place was relatively busy, but we didn’t have to queue. We were seated straightaway at four bar seats.
We handed over our set breakfast vouchers, which saved us the confusion of ordering from the extensive menu…but also meant we were in for a bit of sushi-lotto. The staff got straight onto making our plates, and while they did so, we watched as fish were scooped out of large tanks behind the bar. Yes, the fish is that fresh.
Our breakfast included green tea, miso soup and a plate of assorted sushi.
I’m an adventurous eater, and will try most things once. But the herring roe and the sea urchin sushi? They both made me gag just a tiny bit.
The rest of it, though? Delicious.
Then, after breakfast we had a wander around the outer market, while we waited until 9:00am to be able to get into the wholesale area.
The trays of cherries looked fantastic.
The streets around the market area are quite narrow and filled with many old buildings, including some great examples (as in the photo above) of storefronts clad in copper tiles, which were used in the early part of the 20th century to weather-proof the buildings. The wholesale market is scheduled to move towards the end of 2016 to a new site.
The visitor information centre is located in this building (above), together with a whole bank of drink vending machines, and some public toilets. Maps of the market can be obtained from the information centre.
At 9:00am, the wholesale market area is open to the public. By this time, most of the real business of the day has been done, but it is still a working market, and therefore you need to have your wits about you. The floors are wet, small forklift / transport vehicles whiz around and there are fish hooks, knives and other fish-related tools around. I wouldn’t take small children into this space, and sensible footwear with good grip is advised.
What you will find in this part of the market is the most incredible array of seafood.
Including giant fish heads…
A leisurely stroll through the market checking out all the weird and wonderful aquatic creatures, and we were out of there and back at our hotel by 10:00am.
The Tsukiji fish market is definitely worth a visit. Add a sushi breakfast and you have the perfect start to a Tokyo day.
The detailsSushi Zanmai Tsukiji Restaurant
Address: Tsukiji Market 4-11-9
Address in Japanese: 東京都中央区築地4‐11‐9 築地市場外
Open: 24 hours, 365 days a year
Website in English: www.kiyomura.co.jp Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Wholesale Market website: www.tsukiji-market.or.jp
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo 104-0045, Tokyo Prefecture
Address in Japanese: 〒104-0045 築地5‐2‐1
Outer Market: varies by stall/restaurant, generally 5:00am to early afternoon. Some restaurants open much earlier. Sushi Zanmai is open 24 hours.
Wholesale Market Area: open to visitors after 9:00am
Tuna Auction: open to visitors from 5:25am to 6:15am (limited to 120 visitors and the queue starts much, much earlier)
Closed: Sundays, national holidays and some Wednesdays. The tuna auction is closed to visitors for a few weeks over Christmas/New Year as that is a very busy time of year.
Sushi for breakfast. Would you?
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