Although most of our three-week tour of Japan was self guided, we had two guided days in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Yuko Mori, a young woman with perfect American/English, took us around Tokyo…
We set off on foot from the “Park Hotel”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/travel-product/accommodation/163156-park-hotel-tokyo at 9am for the “Tsukiji”:http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm Japan’s largest and busiest fish market.
On route, our guide Yuko, explained that the market will move to a new site in November 2016 and that this change is very unpopular. Coupled with this, traders are unhappy about the increasing numbers of tourists who they feel interfere with their daily activities. She warned that we may not get a warm reception everywhere, but promised to tell us where stall holders were ‘photo friendly’.
Before entering, we passed an etching on a stainless steel plaque dedicated to the Japanese tuna fish boat, Daigo Fukuryu Maru, showered by deadly radioactive fallout from the testing of a hydrogen bomb at the Bikini Atoll by the US in 1954.
At the inner market the wholesale business and famous 5am tuna auctions take place. The number of visitors allowed into the daily auction is limited to 120 and people queue hours before. We simply walked through marvelling at the variety and size of fish whilst trying to avoid the electric scooters that zip around carrying boxes of fish. The first auction of the year is always an important one and this year, the owner of a chain of sushi restaurants paid ¥14 million (£85,000) for a 200kg blue fin tuna.
The outer market was full of retail shops and restaurants catering to the public. As well as fresh and dried fish, there was a variety of other fresh foods for sale and Yuko explained what the unfamiliar products were. Many seemed to be required in the production of miso soup, which she was a big fan of, although we were yet to be convinced.
After seeing so many fish, a snack at a sushi restaurant seemed appropriate and we stopped at Sushizanmai. We sat at the counter with its hot water tap and powdered green tea, soy sauce, delicious pickled ginger, chopsticks and wet flannels. A card contained pictures of the various sushi which came round on plates on a conveyor belt on the counter:
Roy chose crab mayonnaise wrapped in seaweed whilst I opted for fatty tuna on rice. Both were good and Yuko was impressed I knew the correct way to eat the fatty tuna i.e. use three fingers of your hand to pick up the sushi, dip it in soy sauce fish side down and stuff the whole thing in your mouth in one go. Each ranged in price from ¥200 to ¥500 (£2 to £3) with the type of plate denoting the price.
On leaving we told Yuko about the film Johnny English where Rowan Atkinson gets his tie caught in the sushi conveyor belt. If you’ve not seen it, check out on this Youtube video below. It’s absolutely hilarious.