Before we hit the market proper we get lost in a labyrinth of little laneways that we stupidly thought was "the market", or "the outer market", or "some version of the market". This area is undoubtedly attached to the market in some way (or exists because of the market at any rate), but keep burrowing in until you hit the "proper" Tsukiji Fish Market. You'll know it when you see it as it's a BIG, busy open space swarming with stallholders and scarily fast propane powered trolleys that seem to be quite happy to run over agog-mouthed tourists. Surprisingly though we saw no seagulls about...maybe it was too cold?
We spend a little while wandering about the nice "outer-outer, not-really-the-market market" which was lovely. I'm guessing this is where the locals come to shop for seafood and other items that are on offer including vegetables and fruit. We saw a little bonito-flake factory, tried fleshly flaked bonito, bought some sake glasses, tried some proper green tea and were offered a sample of dried fish we loved, much to the delight of the stall holder.
For those that are keen you can arrive at Tsukiji Fish Market at some ungodly hour and wait in line to be accepted into the "inner-market" where the famous Tuna Auctions take place at about 5am each morning. There's little that will get me out of bed before dawn and watching endangered Tuna be auctioned off for ridiculous prices is not one of those things. It was interesting to see though, when we were waking around, that nearly all of the tuna was frozen rather than whole, fresh fish.
We arrived at about 11am and had a leisurely wander around as the stallholders were all packing up. As we wandered around I really got a sense of how HUGE this market is. We hardly made a dent into the space after 20 minutes of wandering. It was also nice to see some "hipster light fixtures" being used for their intended purpose of industrial lighting...
I also started to get a sense of how much seafood the market must go through here each day...and I started to feel uneasy. For every fish I saw here I wondered how much "by-catch" was left dead on the docks or thrown, dead, back into the ocean. I also wondered what happened to all the fish that didn't sell...did it become "rubbish"? I was aware of our massive over-consumption of everything and I didn't feel great...but I felt hungry so we went for sushi!
There are a few very well known sushi places in the "outer-market" and they are easily recognizable for the horrendous queues forming outside. As it was about 3 degrees on the day of our visit I went straight to the restaurant with no queue. I was running with the theory that we were in Japan, at the biggest fish market in the world...surely ALL the sushi joints would be great.
And look at this fabulous old uncle dishing up sushi from behind the counter! I felt like I was in the movie "Jiro dreams of sushi". Our restaurant couldn't have been more perfect!
The restaurant is tiny, and I'm fairly most of them at the market would be about the same size. There is *just* enough room for us to sit on our stools and for the waiter to squish past with our green tea and soup.
Unsurprisingly the majority of the sushi on offer is tuna. I'm sure there's a way to ask for "no endangered Tuna please Mr Sushi-maker-man, just line caught Slipjack for me" but lord knows how you say that in Japanese...so we just ate what we were given and I have to say it was pretty terrific. Everything was super fresh and so delicious. With the addition of the green tea and pimped out miso soup that had noodles in it we left feeling very full and happy. This feed cost us about AUD$25 each.
For details on how to get to the markets and their opening times this Wikipedia link should help.