Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Earlier this year, I heard from a friend that they were closing down Tokyo's famous Tsukiji Market, one of the world's largest fish markets, to transfer it to a more suitable location in tome for the 2020 Summer Olympics which the city is hosting.

According to its website,  the market, which started as an Uogashi or a riverside fish market in the  16th century Edo period, is open for 24 hours because of the early morning fish auction. I wanted to catch that but coming from a long day of walking and riding rollercoasters, the hubby and I resolved to just get a taste of the fisher later in the day. That was not a good decision.

At 10:00 AM, the best sashimi places (according to most online reviews), Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi, had lines snaking out to the corner of the street. The attendants were already politely turning away clientele explaining that they only had a limited amount of fresh seafood for the sashimi.

I had just come from a month-long bout of seafood allergy. I am now a walking  seafood freshness detector. When fish is not fresh, I break into hives all over (even my hair and nails would itch) and would need shots to counter the swelling. This did not deter me from queueing in one of the sushi restaurants that still had open waiting lines.

We had to wait for about an hour, taking turns to secure our place in the line and going around the market. Looking at souvenirs and pasalubong. I cheated a little and had a few sticks of Edomaki, rolled omelette mixed with fish paste. Tasted like fishy thin pancakes which was weird for me because I like my pancakes sweet, not salty.
When we got in, the place was cramped, with only a long counter good for about 12 people. The choices were limited but I think it works that way so the get to serve the fresh inventory by the end of the lunch service.
The hubby, who is not a fan of raw fish, ordered the safest selection- sushi platter. The slices of raw fish, rolled at the center of rice wrapped nori (seaweed) were fresh. The platter also came with tamago (egg) and tobiko (flying fish egg roe).

I had Chirashidon, vinegared sushi rice topped with an assortment of pickled garnishes and sashimi that included tuna, salmon, uni (sea urchin) and tobiko. My chirashidon came with snow crabs, shrimp, squid and scallops. It had strips of nori as toppings and the wasabi was freshly grated. Yes, I was pushing the limits. Luckily for me, everything was fresh and I had only very minor itching after finishing the bowl in record time.

After the meal, one has to traverse the narrow walkway to the exit on the other end of the restaurant.

It was a truly Japanese dining experience that I would not be able to do again because the 23-hectare Tsukiji raket will be transferred to a 40-hectare site in Toyosu in the reclaimed area of Koto starting November 2016. The new market will be a more modern version. I'm sure it will have its own attractions but will probably lack the old-world charm of Tsukiji. I'm glad to have experienced this centuries-old market before it becomes an entry in the pages of Japanese food history.

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