Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Visiting Japan: Tsukiji Fish Market

In almost every travel book about Japan, you'll definitely see the Tsukiji Fish Market in the Tokyo Attraction section.

Because it's freeeeee and backpackers, especially, love free stuffs.

I was there two weeks ago, and witnessed for myself the endangered fish so longed by so many sushi lovers all over the world. So in this entry I'll give a little advice on how to get there, what to do, what to expect, and what not to do.

1. Firstly, it's not accessible via JR lines. So your JR pass cannot get you there. You need to pay for the private lines to get you there. If you don't know what are the JR lines, the JR pass, and the Japan subway, you can read about them here.

2. Secondly, only 120 people are allowed to witness the tuna auction every morning. So places are limitedit's on a first come, first serve basis. And fuck other websites that say it's best to reach there by 4:00 am, you should be there latest by 3:00 am.
Yes, not 4:00 am, but 3:00 am. If your tour guide insists you to depart from your hotel at 3:30 am, tell him that he's fired you want to be there by 3:00 am no matter what. I woke up at 2:30 am and when I reached the market 15 minutes later there were already about 30 people waiting in the line. Soon, people were pouring in and I thought the line had reached more than 100 people well before 3:30 am. I sympathized with those people who stood at the back because they waited for so long in the cold, 3°C night with the rest of us and only denied entry when they'd reached the gate of the market. Don't risk it. Wake up early and go early.

3. There are numerous hotels nearby for you to live in, and they're bloody expensive. If you're a backpacker who wishes to stay in the cheapest form of accommodation, there is only one, ONE, internet/manga cafe nearby (you can read about cheap accommodation in Japan here). It's called com com manga cafe. To hell with other websites that provided inconspicuous details about the cafe eg. 5 minutes walk from Tsukiji(wtf?) I can cover a lot of ground within 5 minutes. So when you say 5 minutes walk, without giving a clear direction, does that mean 5 minutes to the north or to the west or to the back or to the front?
Thanks to the practically useless piece of information from the web, I spent an hour scouring the streets near the market looking for that particular internet cafe (with my heavy backpack on my back), and I asked the localseven the local policeusing whatever limited Japanese terms I could muster and they told me that there was no manga cafe nearby. I got really pissed by the information on the internet and vowed to provide a more thorough information for other travelers once I got back. It's actually located very very near (like, just a turn at the corner) to the Higashi-Ginza station on the Hibiya line (heck I just checked, the other website that gave the inconspicuous information actually provided a google map pointing at the cafe, but in the caption it's written that the nearest access is the Ginza station, which is four blocks away). You just have to get to the exit of the station, look around, and don't wander too far, and ask the local about it. They should know, because it's so close. It costs 1800 yen for 10 hours, so I just slept through the night, woke up at 2:30 am and went to the market, and got back at 7:00 am to pick up my backpack to go to Asakusa temple.
So, is it nearer to Ginza or Higashi-Ginza?
4. Once you're in, you will be divided into two groups: the first 60 people will be given the green vest, and the next 60 people will be given the blue vest. The green vest group will be allowed into the restricted facility at approximately 5:30am, and the next group will be led in at 6:00am.

5. Once you're allowed into the waiting room and had been given the vest, you will have to wait for about one or two hours. I'd advise you to go sit at the corner and catch some sleep.

6. No flash photography. We were repeatedly reminded that no flash photography allowed. I don't know what would happen if you flashed your camera though. Please try and let me know in the comment section.

7. Be ready for the auction. When the auction starts, a man will begin by standing on a wooden box and starts yelling numbers (in Japanese, of course). If you're tall enough, it's okay to stand at the back. But if you're like me, I didn't know the auction had started so I struggled to get a nice view of the entire process.

8. Don't stray away from the group. It's a dangerous place, with a lot of vehicles moving about at high speed, ferrying the seafood and fish. You don't wanna get yelled at, trust me. These guys have a business to run, and the Japanese people are very serious when it comes and punctuality. If you accidentally blocked their path and caused unwanted delay, I think you'd probably get thrown out of the facility immediately.

9. After the auction, you're allowed to wander around the market and most websites would recommend you to have seafood breakfast at some of the restaurants located within the market area. My advise: don't follow the crowd. You're free to move around now so wander off a bit. Take your time to explore different options. I took the bait and regretted it. I spent 2000 yen for a seafood rice (or kaisen-don, which normally costs about 500 yen), and later when I walked around I came upon a food stall which offered similar food for about 600 yen, and it gosh was inundated by only the Japanese crowd, with no tourists in sighttourists were all in the overrated, overpriced restaurant and thought they'd had a good deal.
2000 yen..... worst deal of the year. The fish was very fresh though.
So I hope you find this information useful. Drop me a comment in the comment section if you have any question.
Enjoy your stay in Japan!


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