I will ‘ave a fishy on a little dishy

After the wild success of visiting Kitchen Town yesterday, we set out to tackle the big one today. Tokyo Fish Markets – both inner and outer. Web sites all seemed to issue warnings, particularly around the New year’s period, concerning personal safety and the wisdom of taking small children to the area. It also was obvious that an early start would be required.

Crowd Scene
Alarm rang at 7am and we were out of the hotel and on our way to Tsujiki Station before 8am. We have by now given up any hope of starting our days with anything other than drip coffee, but still hopefully check anything labelled a café for something approaching an espresso machine. With this in mind and an excited Eamon, we allowed him to respond to the siren call of the Golden Arches and the thought of espresso coffee near the Tsukiji station. Sadly the sausage and egg griddle cake was a strange sweet pancake with uncooked bacon fat and we neglected to realise there was an espresso coffee surcharge and ended up with another weak drip coffee. But back to the pursuit of fish…
The outer market was not far from the station and we knew we were on track by the array of street vendors flogging fishy stuff along the way. The steady stream of thousands of people disappearing around the corner was also a solid sign we were near. Our turn to turn the corner and yet another of those OMG moments Tokyo has provided us with. Tens of thousands of people covering the road and footpaths with stalls on both sides of both footpaths with streams of people packed so tight it was not possible to move freely. Mix this with tough looking fish market guys zooming at ridiculous speeds through the masses on little three wheel carts with horns blaring, stall holder types on motor bikes and scooters, film crews and tourists and this was a scene to behold. The stalls were filled with everything fishy you could imagine. A couple sold Fugu fins, some sold melts and roe, some tuna livers, all kinds of fish, rays, octopus, squid…
Zoom Zoom
I caught a strong whiff of haddock (I thought) and then came to a fish smoking stall at the top of the street. There were tiny bars with 6 seats. The odd toothpick stand, some sushi places with huge queues outside them and a most amazing overall scene. This was truly amazing and then we came to the actual markets themselves. All those warnings about personal safety had been understatement. People are so close to being skittled by all manner of three wheeled vehicles, trucks and bikes imaginable – they don’t slow down and they come at you from every angle as you try and cross the forecourt into the market building. We chose a route past the Mt Everest of Styrofoam boxes and around the back of a couple of parked trucks and made it into the relative sanctuary of the main market’s rabbit warren of wholesale stalls. The three wheelers don’t stop inside and they’re supplemented by guys with hugely long hand carts. The stalls themselves were obviously reaching the end of their day with the last of their stock out, but it was still teeming with people. There was still tuna blood and fish heads and livers and prawns in tanks and trays of fugu and trays of red octopus and mountains of tiny gar-like fish and guys shaving huge frozen chunks of tuna or band sawing them. The little alleyways seemed togo on and on with strange sea creatures at every turn. Pip wondered if there were any fish left in the sea. Eams was amazed by the live fish beheadings at one stall. After an hour or so, we headed back out to the forecourt to run the gauntlet again and found ourselves on the other side of the market where there was another maze of tiny alleys with huge queues for the various restaurants up and down the lanes. We explored these lanes for as while before heading back to the station and off to our second destination for the day, Akihabara (Electric Town).
Mystery lunch
It wasn’t too far on the train, but we were all grateful for a quick sit. I do find sitting on a slightly too heated seat a little off-putting and possibly a little bum burning, but I can come to terms with it after a morning’s walking.
Akihabara is a little draining. There are about a dozen city blocks of electronics stores, all with blaring sound and lights, all with spruikers and all with gaudy coloured posters up to about level 10 on the outside. It’s a bit like spending a couple of hours in side-show alley. We happened upon a little corner with three food caravans and some temporary tables and chairs. Two of the caravans promised doner kebabs, and indeed had cartoon sized kebabs turning on their rotary grills and one had a man in a van with a griddle on a pan. He was pouring a pancake-ish mixture onto the griddle and filling them with things as they rose into balls. Pip and I pointed at the pictures on the menu – I got one with mayo and shallot on top and Pip’s had one with shredded nori. Still don’t know what they were, but they were eaten with chopsticks and yummy, kind of gooey inside and hot and tasty. Eams had a kebab in a half a fluffy pita bread. We trolled through a few of the huge stores and were particularly amazed by the ones that sold anime models and toys. Found a shop that had a remarkable deal on a camera which we bought and Pip narrowly avoided being dragged off by a Maid to a Maid Café, which in itself is a very weird concept quite popular in this area. Lots of giggling, fawning and waving maids.
Dinner from the super market – Sushi for Eamon, Salmon set for Pip and I had some French bread with ham and my foodhall tomatoes.


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