Tokyo Time: Tsukiji and Spontenaity

Tuesday, August 25th, rolled around bright and early.  And by early, I mean early, as I woke up at five (okay… five thirty) in the morning so-as to catch the action at the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

Tsukiji is the largest fish market in the entire world, moving over 2000 metric tons of seafood every day, to the tune of over 200 billion dollars a year.  It employs over 14,000 people in an area that, really, is not big enough for that much fish and that many people.  (I was nearly run over about 80 times.)

The foreigners who visit Tsukiji are both a blessing and a curse for those fishermen who work in the market, since we popularize the destination and add fuel to the fire regarding Tokyo’s plan to move the fish market to a somewhat polluted site.  However, we also stop in the middle of crowded, narrow walkways to take pictures and rarely buy anything.

I tried to get out of the way wherever possible.  Only one man yelled at me for stopping.  I consider that a job well done.

(I didn’t buy any fish.  It was six in the morning!  I can’t eat sushi at six in the morning.  Gross.)

Getting ice to keep that fish fresh.

Getting ice to keep that fish fresh.

I had no idea shrimp could be so colorful!

I had no idea shrimp could be so colorful!

These fish were terrifying. Why?  BECAUSE THEY WERE STILL BREATHING!

These fish were terrifying. Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE STILL BREATHING!

A wide angle of some of the madness.

A wide angle of some of the madness.

And, of course, my favorite from the day:

It takes at least three men to cut fresh tuna.

It takes at least three men to cut fresh tuna.

In any case, the moral of the story is that, despite the chaos and my guilt for being nothing more than a camera wielding tourist, I really enjoyed myself at Tsukiji and I’d recommend it.  If you can, go earlier than six, as then you might be able to see the tuna bidding process, which I’ve heard is really interesting.  It’s also shocking to see the men cut frozen tuna–they use a power saw!  !!!  No, I’m not kidding.  It’s insane.

However, when shopping in Tsukiji, please be aware of the problems of overfishing.  Shop for yellow fin tuna, crustaceans like shrimp or scallops, and the like, as, in some point in the future, many of the fish species currently on sale in Tsukiji will be endangered and maybe even gone.  I want to keep eating my sushi, so let’s make it green, folks!


At about nine am, I went back to the hostel to take a nap.  I woke up from said nap at 11:30.  Found a bookstore.  Bought books.  Then I took the train back to Shibuya (time #3!) and… well, did something a little impulsive.

I gots a new tattoo. Sorry, dad:



It means, in case you care:

The way that can be known is not the eternal way.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

From the first chapter of the chinese philosophical classic, The Way and the Power by Lao Zi, written (supposedly) around 500 BC.  Laozi’s name, actually, is typical Daoist contradiction in that “Lao” is the character for old and “Zi” is the character for child.  Just saying.  It’s an amazing, thought-provoking treatise with lots of good-old-fashioned feminine worship, too.  I’d recommend it.

Anyway, back to Japan.  Right, I’m in Japan, not China.

Because I’m super twitchy, the whole thing took about two hours to complete.  By this time it was 4pm, and I was meeting Tomo-chan for dinner at 7pm.  I sat at a random table between Shibuya and Harajuku, back ramrod straight, for three hours, reading The Mysterious Benedict Society, which was actually quite amusing, if a little predictable.  I’ll probably get the sequels.

I met Tomoko and two of her friends (Yuki and… AHHH I FORGOT THE OTHER GIRL’S NAME) for Vietnamese food, which was delicious.  Especially the Pho.  But then pho is always delicious.  There was lots of giggles, lots of very confusing sentences with both Japanese and English intertwining in no semblance of sense, and finally it was time to go.

I miss Tomo-chan already.  😦

????, Tomo-chan, Me, and Yuki at the Vietnamese restaurant in Yokohama.

????, Tomo-chan, Me, and Yuki at the Vietnamese restaurant in Yokohama.

And that was pretty much it.  The new tattoo kept me from doing too much active stuff on Wednesday before I caught my plane (and it also made it difficult to carry my camera backpack)… but I made it back home.

Overall, I had a fantastic time in Tokyo.  There’s still plenty of things I’d like to see–more museums, for instance, with Studio Ghibli on the top of the list.  And I of course want to see Tomoko again, though she’s promised to visit Iki next summer.  If I had to do it again, I don’t think I’d change a thing.

Well, I might not have flirted with Edmond so much.  And I probably would have slapped the random Japanese guy who propositioned me on my way back to Shibuya from Harajuku, rather than just ignored him as best I could.

But those aren’t big deals.

🙂  Any questions?

Off to South Korea tomorrow, so there’ll be a blogging blackout for about ten days.  Cross your fingers that there won’t be a typhoon, as apparently one is predicted.