…how I love les poissons!” In case you didn’t catch that, that was my tribute to the The Little Mermaid, but honestly, I’m in whole-hearted agreement with that line. And Japan, being entirely surrounded by sea, has a history of fish and in general seafood, being incorporated into its diet.
That being the case, it is only reasonable that it is home to the largest fish market in the world, Tsukiji Fish Market. But the highlight of this magnificent place, is the auction which takes place in the wee hours of the morning. Only 120 people are able to go in, and in order to even register at this popular attraction, you would have to get there at 4:30AM to register. Unfortunately, due to the dorm’s closing hours, I was not able to go, but one of the other study abroad students decided to stay the night out for a chance to get in. Because of its popularity though, she wasn’t able to get in.
Now, you might be wondering what the appeal is about a fish auction, but it’s a cultural experience. From what I have heard, the auction has its own dynamic. The fish being auctioned are giant tuna that are examined by professionals who grade them by quality of the flesh. It’s fast paced with the buyers automatically gauging quality based on the flesh exposed from the sliced off tail, and they have to get through numerous fish. They have their own special sign language that only veterans of this business know, so the auction is conducted with minimal sounds. Pretty cool if you ask me.
Everything in Tsukiji pretty much concludes at around 9AM which makes sense considering the value of freshness. Although I did not attend the auction, that didn’t stop me taking advantage of what Tsukiji had to offer. I showed up a little after 7AM, and there were still many active stalls that were selling seafood, dried or pickled foods, and various other goods like specialty knives. It was packed with people, and some food vendors had long lines of waiting people. Interestingly enough, there were only high tables in which people ate standing up. While in the indoor part of the market, I was able to try a free sample of some sort of fish, and since the skin was brown, it looked pretty unappetizing, but was amazingly tender and tasty. The only reasonable course of action to take after touring the place and looking at the different varieties of fish was to have sushi for breakfast! A bit unorthodox admittedly, but my friends and I wanted to have a taste of what freshest sushi could be like. Prices cost a little bit more than usual, but I suppose you pay for what you get. The sushi was good, but I am no connoisseur so I was not able to detect any particular differences. It still feels good to say that I was able to eat sushi from Tsukiji, and just as a recommendation, if you are going to eat sushi there, get the tuna because there are different levels of fatty tuna which is considered more of a delicacy. Besides, that’s also what’s being auctioned in Tsukiji!
Maybe one day I will have a chance to actually tour the warehouse during the auctions. I’m definitely adding it to life goals.