Tsukiji, established around 1923, starts operations around 3 am every night when fish and other seafood is brought in to be auctioned and sold. Some of the fish is freshly caught from the sea whereas others are imported. The fish available is extremely high quality. As we walked around the market, I noticed that the prices were unusually high for wholesale. The market was not just selling fish. It also included fruits, vegetables and other kinds of meat. Since many wholesalers come to Tsukiji market for fish, sellers of other items find it beneficial to set up their stores nearby. On the outer part of the market, there were people selling items such as chopsticks, knives, etc that restuarant owners may want for their restaurant. And ofcourse, there were several restaurants-sushi as well as other kinds of food. From what I understand, the Tsukiji market operations includes a vast variety of people in the distribution channel (wholesalers, producers, distributors, etc)
The fish (especially tuna, which is one of the more popular items) is auctioned around 5 a.m. By 9 a.m., most of the operations are over and cleaning begins. We took the tour around 9:30 a.m., and we saw several shop owners packing up for the day. Tsukiji market will soon be moved to another location and we were very lucky to see it in its original historic location.
Instead of smelling strong and repulsive as meat markets often do, Tsukiji market smelt quite fresh. We were given a tour by one of our Professors' connections who owned a sushi restaurant nearby. As he took us around and introduced us to people he often deals with in the market, we were offered free samples and gifts. We got some delicious matcha tea (which if awfully generous considering how steeply priced matcha tea usually is), fresh fruit and squid.
|The outer market of Tsukiji-which sells everything from meat, fruit, vegetables to cutlery, tea, etc|
|A shop selling knives which are used to cut raw fish|
|Raw tuna being cut using this machine which has a blade running up and down (its almost too thin to be easily seen in this picture)|
|Fresh fish being sold in the inner market-some of it is kept alive as long as possible so that its fresh when eaten.|
|The inner market of Tsukiji-at 10 a.m. the shop keepers are cleaning up and ready to close|
|Raw squid, one of the many samples we were offered.|
|The first ever Yoshinoya-a famous chain which gave its name to the concept of Japanese fast food restaurants|
|Machines used to transport tuna every morning. Since the tuna for the day had already been transported, we hopped on and got to take a quick round on it!|
|Three strings leading up to bells on top. Like in Hindu temples, these bells are used to get the attention of the Shinto Gods.|
After we were done eating, everyone got the chance to make sushi themselves. Two people would go up to a cooking counter at the end of the room and two expert chefs would teach them how to make sushi. Four people would sit on the other side of the counter and eat the sushi made. When my turn came, I found that making sushi is harder than it looks. You first dip your hand in water so that the sticky rice doesn't stick to your hands. Then you take some rice in your hand and roll it. The cut slice of raw fish with some wasabi on it is then put over the rice and the rice is pushed inwards so that its in line with the raw fish. The height or width of the rice has to be exactly right for the sushi to stand.
|Sushi making with the chefs.|
|Getting ready to make sushi! We were dressed in a white jacket, a wrap around white skirt and the white paper hat before we started.|
|A view of Tokyo from the observatory of Tokyo Tower|
The Yale graduate also showed us this big circular room with three large screens. The room was all white. It is used for public viewings and events such as football matches, weddings, etc. It was interesting to hear the kind of purposes the room served. Creating such space in an acclaimed place like Tokyo tower is a genius commercialization move.
|A blurred picture of dessert at Tokyo tower-waffle with green tea ice cream, whipped cream and red bean. I also got the chance to have a matcha latte topped with a bit of ice cream.|
Our official field trip ended here and we went to Ginza for Karoake after that. The prices of Karoake places in Ginza was very high, not just because Ginza is one of the most upscale neighborhoods of Tokyo, but also because this was a Friday night. Finally we found a cheap and sort of shady place. Over some drinks (karoake places require atleast one drink per person to be ordered),the six of us spent the next two hours in a cozy room singing Hollywood music. I once again ordered Umeshu, the Japanese plum wine. This was my first time doing Karoake. It was so fun. Some of the technology in a low end place like this was pleasantly surprising. There was an intercom telephone in the karaoke room and there were devices using which we could select the songs we wanted. At first we weren't sure if they'd even have english music available, but it had quite a large variety of songs.
|Ending Friday with Karoake!|
Having been up and about for 18 hours, I was tired by the time I got home but at the same time very satisfied with all my new experiences.