Day Three: Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza, Winter Illuminations at Shiodome
Day Three: Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza, Winter Illuminations at Shidome
If you love sushi and you’re heading to Tokyo, you’d be remiss if you didn’t take the opportunity to check out the Tsukiji Fish Market located in central Chūō-ku. While we were planning our trip to Japan, we had heard that there were plans to move the famous fish market in November 2016 (right smack dab during our visit). It kind of made sense because the Tsukiji Fish Market takes up a lot of valuable real estate in the heart of Tokyo. Fortunately for us, the move was delayed and we were able to check out this historic landmark.
The fish market is comprised of an inner market (where the fish auction takes place) and an outer market that holds mostly retail shops and restaurants.
If you’re aiming to come visit the Tsukiji Fish Market, aim to come by early. Most tourists want to see the famous tuna auction but you really have to get here early and sometimes they close it off to the public. Since we were just here to get some really fresh seafood, we decided to visit around 9am. That might seem a bit early for sushi but most restaurants in the area close early because they run out of food by mid-day.
By the time that we arrived, many of the popular restaurants already had lineups that snaked up and down the little alleyways. As with most restaurants in Japan, the ones here are fairly tiny so it’s no wonder that they fill up quickly. The good news is that pretty much every restaurant at the market is going to serve up top notch seafood so you can’t really go wrong. If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant, show up early and prepare to wait. Otherwise, just find a less busy restaurant and you’ll still be happy.
We wound up at Iwasa Sushi since they had a few empty seats at the sushi bar. The restaurant is very narrow and you’re basically just squished in there but it was a good experience. I wound up ordering the omakase set (where the chef decides what to serve you) and I’ve got to say that it was truly an amazing meal.
After our meal, the lineup outside our restaurant had gotten long too so it was fortunate that we got in when we did. We decided to stroll through the fish market and take a look at some of the stalls. By this time, most of the activity had already died down.
It was still a good experience seeing all of the remains of the furious work from the morning… the cobblestones were still awash with a mix of fish guts and blood in some spots.
Some of the stalls had various seafood all prepped and ready for sale.
As this is a working fish market, you have to keep an eye out for the various trucks whizzing by with seafood destined for restaurants around the city.
The sheer volume of styrofoam that they use here to keep their seafood fresh is amazing.
Afterwards, we walked around the outer market where we found more stalls selling fresh vegetables.
That led us to a narrow pedestrian street that was filled with a mix of restaurants, souvenirs, and housewares.
We came across this great little stall that sold shrimp chips. They had so many varieties but we wound up getting some mixed bags. The chips were so thin and light but chock full of flavour.
As we continued walking, we wound up in Ginza, a district of Chūō-ku, just west of Tsukiji. Ginza is known for their upscale shopping district and the tall buildings that line the busy street are rather impressive.
The Wako department store, with a curved granite exterior topped with a clock tower, is located right in the heart of Ginza.
If you have an interest in Japanese paper products, head over to Kyukyodo Ginza. This Japanese paper specialist opened their first store in Kyoto in 1663 and moved to Tokyo in 1880.
Uniqlo has their flagship shop in Ginza – while the building is quite tall, their floors are very compact. I suppose with the shortage of floor space in Tokyo, retailers decided the only way to go was to build upwards.
If you’re looking for a special gift for someone who’s into pens, check out the Itoya Ginza store – they’ve got a ton of different specialty pens that you can’t find in Canada.
I can’t remember where we took this picture but it was while walking through Ginza. The animatronic polar bear in this department store was both cute and a bit freakish at the same time. There was a button located on the outside wall that you could push to “wake up” the bear.
A wall of colour inside Itoya.
All of the walking and shopping that we did today took a toll on us and we were desperately in need of some food so we found the nearest McDonald’s and ordered some McNuggets. Apparently melon fanta is a thing in Japan and I wound up ordering it quite frequently during our trip.
No trip to Japan would be complete without picking up some KitKats – they’ve got some flavours in Japan that you won’t find anywhere else.
As we visited Japan in mid-November, the Winter Illumination had just begun so it was a no-brainer that we wanted to check out lights at the Caretta Shiodome in nearby Minato-ku.
As it turned out, they were holding a special event where Japanese singer May J was performing at the lighting ceremony. Because of this, we couldn’t get too close and they had security staff preventing people from taking pictures. I managed to get a few shots before the security staff arrived.
We stuck around for a while and got a few shots from afar but decided to head out for some much needed dinner.
It was a pretty full day for us and we were super tired. One thing we noticed was that everyone always seems to be on the go in Japan. We hardly found anywhere that had a bench or seat to rest your feet other than at a sit-down restaurant. We hopped back on the train to head back towards our hotel and find some dinner before calling it a night.
The trains in Japan can be a bit confusing as they have multiple lines and stations and it’s not always obvious which platform you need to get on. On the plus side, there were English signs which made things a bit more manageable.
Heading back to the Tokyo Dome area near our hotel, we wound up having a hard time finding a restaurant that wasn’t already busy. We eventually wound up at the Korean Hanbijae LaQua where we ordered a bibimbap set menu.
We were so bushed after our meal, we headed straight back to our hotel to get some rest. We had big plans for the following day as we decided to venture out on our own (up until now, we were relying heavily on our friends who’ve previously been to Japan to guide us around).