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Tsukiji Fish Market, Day 1

After getting a late start due to lack of funds due to lack of banking due to lack of workday, I figured out how to get to the fish market off the Hibiya metro line. The building is somewhat curved, and it's so large that it looks like a matte painting shot in the movies, where it goes off into infinity with full detail, but it really is just that big. I'd guess about 400 yards or so just for this building, then the produce and shops are in separate buildings nearby.


I have a ton of shots, but I'll just run through the most interesting stuff.

The ground was paved for traction.


The suckers of this octopus leg were almost 2 inches in diameter, and the leg at the thickest point was almost 5 inches in diameter. It was fresh enough that it still was responding to touch, when a buyer checked it.


I believe this is called pen shell, which is more or less an enormous mussel, but only the adductor is eaten, like a scallop.


I guess tuna cheeks up to a certain size are sold separately. Larger heads usually are intact.


Is anyone familiar with this fish?


Apparently, there are many grades of uni sea urchin.


This blade is about 6 feet long, and is flexible. The sheath is homemade, out of cardboard, paper and tape.


While many stalls have band saws to trim the loins, some places still use hand tools like this axe.


A sanitation inspector at work. One thing that I had noticed by this point is that there is no bad fishy smell here, only the clean, oceany smell. It doesn't seem possible, just because there are fish parts here and there, fish blood being washed away, and tanks overflowing. The only place I noticed the bad smell was in one section of the parking lot.


There are several types of large blades for cutting tuna, and this is the heavy and very thick one for cutting whole loins into large chunks.


This is a bluefin tuna head, I'd guess the fish was about 400 pounds.




Is this shirako? Can anyone translate? Is it a great deal? Why the exclams??


Live abalone and squid are stored together in this tank.


This is called shaku in Japanese, which seems to be related to lobster, but it has a purple-ish cast rather than red. It has a dense, medium fine texture, but lean, and somewhat sweet. [I believe this is a form of mantis shrimp]


When breaking down a large tuna, it's cut into four long quarter sections from head to tail. When working along the skeleton, a knife about 30 inches long is used to make guide cuts, then the six or seven foot long flexible knife is placed in the cut and worked back and forth by at least two men, sort of like lumberjacks.


I left the market to finally get some cash at a bank. This is above the building housing the smaller vendors.


A selection of magurokiri (tuna knives) from the manufacturer called Aritsugu.


There was some sort of open house/festival going on called Uogashi Yokocho. I have no idea if this meant that it was busier than usual, but some of the lines for certain sushi joints were amazing. Some were 50 people or more, but the frontage is so narrow (about 10 feet), and they don't block the next door restaurant, so they zigzag the line back on itself. Plus, they run motorcarts and bikes through the aisles as well, so people pack themselves in pretty good.

I'm going back on Saturday, so I went to some of the less busy places to actually eat. The first stop was Ryuzushi (continued...)
[edit to add in exterior shot]

(...continued) for the Ran sushi set (iwashi, ebi with the head, akagai clam, ika, otoro, a snapper, sea eel and tuna roll). The eel was a bit waterlogged and mushy.


I augmented it with shaku, uni, and iwashi. One thing different is that nigiri are single pieces, not two per order as in most places the US.


While it was tasty, I felt there was a certain rustic-ness or impreciseness to Ryuzushi that was somewhat disappointing. I'm all for amazing fish in a divey setting, but in this case it didn't really work as well for me. All in, about ¥4,800, or about $41.40.

The second stop was Sushi Zanmai. It's a big place, fairly plush and modern, but still good fish at a tremendous value. And Kirin on tap! Here's the assorted sushi lunch special, which included marinated fish, shrimp head miso soup, a salad and green tea. The sushi included really excellent salmon, chutoro, ikura and okra with plum paste.


I also got kohada (gizzard shad) and uni.


All in, with a beer, ¥2,809, or about $24.22.

So how was it? Naturally, the fish was very fresh and of high quality. Sushi Zanmai offered much better value overall, for a similar quality of fish, IMHO. Certainly an equivalent meal in Los Angeles would probably be at least twice as much, respectively, and you'd still be hard pressed to match the quality, and certain items just wouldn't be available at all, like the shaku. I'm going back Saturday to try more sushi joints.


Looks delicious. Haven't had sushi in a while, but it'll be hard to match what you have had. Have you had a chance to take any video?

Hi Tad,

That market is amazing. If you wouldn't mind sharing, I'd love to find out more about your career transition. Maybe you can include some more info in your posts?

I am so very envious of your culinary journey through Asia! Can't wait to read your Thailand posts as I'm headed there next spring.

FYI, I've picked up my blog again (and moved it to typepad). Hopefully you'll forgive my fits and starts and we'll have a chance to break bread in the future. =)

Happy travels - looking forward to more of your trip!

(bottomlesspit @ egullet)

Rich, I haven't taken much video. I have been doing a few "standups" here and there, but I'm not really comfortable with those. I decided not to shoot at the fish market because I hate watching video of someone walking around. It would make me motion sick to watch it. Plus there's a lot of the same stuff at each stall, so photos are easier to cull from.

Shinae, essentially I was a computer guy who always wanted to be a cook. Over the last few years, I've taken little steps toward it and now I've resolved to do it. Many thanks go to Chef Neal Fraser and the people at Grace (http://gracerestaurant.com), who taught me about being a cook in a restaurant kitchen. We should defintely find some good food when I get back!

uh...i know that is the fish market but was that a big bucket of brains? do fish have big brains? xome

Fish have pretty small brains, I think. Those may have been some.... other parts.

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