The Tokyo Diaries: Sushi For Breakfast

Tsukiji Fish Market

Sushi for breakfast. The idea of eating raw fish for breakfast isn’t one that crosses my mind very often. But if you’re heading to Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, then fish for breakfast you shall have.

Tsukiji is famous for its 5am tuna auction, something that has become so popular to go and see that people start queueing for a spot from 2am in the morning. Not my cup of tea. Waiting for 3 hours to watch a fish auction? Yeah I think I’ll pass. If you do want to go and watch, however, I have been told that simply not going to sleep works well-ish. Go out for the evening, ending with a cheeky kareoke sesh close-by and then trundle on down to the fishy marketplace. I definitely would last.

So – after managing to go to the wrong part of the Shinjuku station to meet Sam that morning, and subsequently spending half an hour people watching (Japanese fashion is great – so quirky), we finally arrived at the market at about 9:30am. I think it’s probably better to go a little earlier, but hey ho.

It was pelting it down with rain – my poor boat shoes were sinking ships in the puddle-filled roads, but given the stark contrast to the desert I call home, I wasn’t complaining! As we walked toward the sushi breakfast spot, I could see queues upon queues of people, standing in the rain, waiting for a seat in one of the tiny restaurants. Well for a seat in a select couple. You see a couple of them have made it into the Lonely Planet, so seem to be much more popular. We walked straight into one of the others and got a seat immediately. I took Sam’s word for it when she said that it was just as good. And that, it was.

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We sat down at the bar, and were served a steaming cup of green tea by a lovely little old Japanese lady who appeared from behind a curtain at the back. She reappeared shortly with little bowls of miso soup to accompany the sushi platter we had ordered. It was fascinating to watch how quickly the fishy delicacies were whipped into shape. Talented chaps – I’d like to give it a go one day!

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As we sipped on our green tea, the sushi platter began to take shape in front of us, atop a tropical leaf. Love that. As the platter we ordered contained a selection of 9 different types of sushi, and we had decided to share, the sushi chef (is that even what you call them?) sliced each of them in half, bless his cotton socks!

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Once our platter was complete, we picked up our chopsticks and got stuck in. I think my favourite would probably either be the tuna (the dark pink one at the far end) or the snow crab (third from the front). I’m not really that into sushi generally. It’s one of those things that I’ll eat if it’s at a brunch, and I’ll enjoy if someone chooses it as our dinner destination, but I’ll never go out of my way to find the stuff. Freshly caught sushi rolls, however, are just a whole other kettle of fish…

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Mandatory mid-soy sauce pour. So talented…

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Ah yes – the delicious snow crab. Not only did it taste delicious, it also had a festive name. What more could a Christmas-obsessed girl want?

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Since one enormous sushi platter wasn’t quite enough, we decided to go for one more roll. Each. This was on Sam’s recommendation – the conger eel. When I think of eel, I think of those horrid creatures that lurked at the bottom of the river that I used to play in during warm summer days in North Devon. Creeepy. And the taste I would imagine to be rather rubbery. I was pleasantly surprised. It was D-LICIOUS. The flesh just fell apart in your mouth. One half was served with a sweet brown sauce (no idea what was in it), and the other half with sea salt and lime zest. It was my favourite of the day – hands down. I highly recommend it.

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With our sushi feast out the way, it was time to wander around the market. We were a little late to the party, so some of the stalls were closing up shop, but we still managed to find some weird and wonderful delights.

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Didn’t spot this chap until I was standing right next to him. A severed tuna head, complete with tail in mouth. Delightful. Is it odd that I hadn’t realised before this point how huge tuna are? I’ve bought tuna steaks in the supermarket, but this chap certainly wouldn’t fit in a tin, even if you asked him nicely. He was a big lad.

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We became great friends. (that was as close as I was getting)

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Time for an oyster stop (never thought I’d type that). A lovely little lady was standing next to a stand filled with crushed ice and three different sizes of oysters. We handed over ¥200 each, and slurped away.

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Following the necessary oyster pitstop, we continued to meander through the busy market. Among other things, I found a mountain of dried jellyfish. No chance of being stung by a dried one (I had a rather nasty sting on my arm a couple of weeks ago for those who weren’t aware). Rather than being a little grossed out by the view, I actually felt rather relieved!

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And finally, after a super tough morning, it was time for a cool pint of Asahi and another session of people watching.

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I had a thoroughly enjoyable morning (thank you Sam!). I can’t say that I would ever consider sushi for breakfast on any normal day, but this really was a mouth-watering treat. I think that perhaps next time I visit, I’ll go a little earlier and actually buy some fresh fish from the market to cook for dinner.

I definitely recommend a visit if you find yourself in Tokyo, but perhaps not for the tuna auction unless you’re a real night owl.

All for now, but more of Tokyo to come…plus a snapshot of Osaka!

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4 thoughts on “The Tokyo Diaries: Sushi For Breakfast

  1. Sally says:

    Love your honesty about not getting there early. This is how most people behave as tourists! Such an interesting post. You’ve made me crave eel – for breakfast!

  2. Mitzie Mee says:

    I stayed in the area around Tsukiji market in July and we had sushi for breakfast every day:) I’ve been there for the tuna auction a couple of years ago, and to be honest, you didn’t miss anything. It’s crowded and you feel like you’re very much in the way. Regarding the restaurants at Tsukiji with long lines outside (Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi), they are also not worth the wait, if you ask me. Only tourists go there and even thought the sushi is excellent, you’ll find just as good sushi at many of the other spots around the market:)

    • hashtagcake says:

      Glad to hear I didn’t miss anything in terms of the tuna auction. As soon as an attraction is written about in the Lonely Planet, it’s only a matter of time before it is over-run with tourists. The sushi I had was fantastic. And I am glad that I didn’t waste hours waiting in the rain for a seat at one of the more famous spots! I’m sure I’ll be returning again at some point – so do let me know if there is anything else in the city you recommend!

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