Japan’s Tsukiji fish market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, and has rightfully become an extremely popular tourist spot. One of the main attraction is the tuna auction, where businesses compete for the best tuna in the world. Lines to observe the auction is open to the general public, and starts forming around 4am — but only for the first 120 people. Tips for getting into the tuna auction:
- HIGHLY RECOMMEND:Find a hotel nearby the fish market so you can just walk to the auction at 4am (Japan’s public transportation doesn’t start that early!!!)
- A good value and the nearest hotel I stayed at was the Tokyu Stay Higashi-Ginza for around $73/night. http://www.tokyustay.co.jp/e/hotel/HIG/ Ask for the ~5,970 yen special.
- CHECK whether the auction is even open (they close pretty randomly): www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/etc/calendar/2012.html
- GET THERE at 4am, seriously…I was too late at 4:30am, so I had to try again the following morning! It may help to visit the market on your first few days of arrival while you’re still jet lagged. You just be waiting in line (an hour outdoors till 5am, and another ~30 mins indoors), so maybe get something to read. =)
- Japan Guide: www.japan-guide.com/e/e3021.html
Once you get in, you’ll see that Tsukiji starts early in the morning….
You’ll see buyers inspecting the tuna quality with their hooks and flashlights:
When the auction starts, you’ll hear bells ringing and lots of shouting!
Outside, vehicles zoom around:
With the highest quality fishes at Tsukiji, it’s no wonder you’ll find some of the best sushi there too! I visited two of the most famous sushi restaurants there: Sushi Dai and Sushi Dai Wa (similar names, but different places!). Here’s their differences:
- Look for ROW 6, 4th store to the right. You can’t miss the long lines around the corner.
- The wait is over TWO HOURS (unless you skip the auction and go there when they open at 5am), but they serve the best quality fish.
- Once inside, the professional yet comical chefs take their time, so expect a slower paced eating experience. Some speak a bit of English, so you’ll feel welcome. They even have an English menu.
- 3,900 yen (or $49) for 10 course meal (10 pieces of sushi chosen by the chef plus 1 piece fish of your choice with sushi roll, tamago and miso soup)
- Look for ROW 6, 8th store to the right (4 stores down from Sushi Dai)
- Absolutely no waiting necessary! They have double the space and double the chefs. Chefs were overall pretty nice and friendly. They speak little English.
- The chefs (in comparison to Sushi Dai) seem to rush the sushi out faster — and as such, the quality a few notches lower than Sushi Dai.
- 3500 yen (or $44) for 7 pieces of sushi, sushi roll, miso
3 – Red snapper: smooth
4 – Sea urchin: smooth
5 – Saury
6 – Surf Clam: it’s actually alive and moving!
7 – Spanish Mackerel: melt in mouth
8 – Baby Shrimp
9 – Cod Roe Sushi: bitter cucumber
10 – Salmon Roe
11 – Sea Eel: not too salty, soft
12 – Tamagoyaki – hot!
13 – for my own pick, I had one more fatty tuna…nom nom! =)
Sushi Dai Wa
The sushi came out so fast I didn’t have time to write down what they were…so here it is:
Hungry Cactus’ Verdict: B/A/B
- Tuna Auction: B
- Waking up at 3am to get to the 4am line was just a bit too ridiculous in my book. The auction was not as exciting as I expected it to be, so maybe it was just a slow day. Also, if you’ve been to any Asian fish markets, you probably won’t find the tuna auction too fascinating.
- However, if you’re jet lagged and have someone to accompany you on the wait, I’d say go for it. Otherwise, it’s probably better use of your time to be first in line at Sushi Dai for sushi breakfast!
- Sushi Dai: A
- I think Sushi Dai was definitely the best sushi meal thus far. The slower pace really made the meal more enjoyable and the wait worthwhile. But there’s no denying the two hour wait really hurt. So skip the tuna auction and just head on over here! At the end of the meal, you’ll feel like a well fed king.
- Sushi Dai Wa: B
- Only come here if you don’t want to wait in line at Sushi Dai. It’s the next best thing, but you do miss out from the Sushi Dai experience.