Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Breakfast of Champions: 6am Sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market

Checking out the tasty sea critters at Tsukiji

I'm sort of posting events out of order, but I had to tell you about New Years at the Park Hyatt Tokyo while it was still fresh in my mind... Speaking of "fresh," Christmas Eve morning found Maris and me at Tsukiji Fish Market asking ourselves "Are we tough enough for 6am uni (raw sea urchin private parts) and other delectable raw sea critters?" The answer--if that sushi is the world's freshest as of 3am--was a resounding "YES!"

Maris patiently waiting her turn for 6am sushi at Sushi-bun

With over 900 dealers clearing over 2,000 tons of seafood on an area the size of 43 football fields each day, Tsukiji is the world's largest seafood wholesaler. Roughly $6 billion in fresh seafood goes through Tsukiji each year. This includes the sushi-grade tuna sold via those famed auctions--one monster tuna even sold for $175,000 the other day! Seeing our breakfast in its pre-sushi (eg whole form) was a neat experience to say the least.

A grizzled Tsukiji vet getting it done. She was all of 4'8" tall.

It was also quite an experience playing "chicken" with the fed-up-with-it-all middlemen who would speed up and try to hit you in their motorized "fish movers." I don't blame them for viewing tourists with disdain; this is their "office" and here we are, collectively bumbling about touching (but not buying) their product and just generally getting in the way. In fact, from mid-December through January each year tourists are banned from the tuna auctions due to the actions of a few bad actors over the years. The final straw was last winter when a drunken British tourist was caught licking the head of a frozen tuna for that must-have Tsjukiji photo.

"Processing" live eels. These guys are slippery so they nail their heads down. Merry Christmas!

Regardless, I was able to talk Maris out of licking fish parts and together we made it past the gauntlet of sadistic fishmongers on wheels to "see some things we ain't seen before." A top 10 Japan experience for sure!


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