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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Something is Fishy!

In preparation for Tokyo, a daily check on the status of the shops around the old Tsukiji Fish Market was performed to ensure there would still be fish to be had. Being morning people, we got up before sunrise to catch the first train on the Toei Oedo line to Tsukijishijo station. Arriving at 7:00am, the sleepy neighbourhood was still devoid of people.

We found only a few shops open; an opportunity to start the day with a delicious artisan coffee offered by a small shop nestled among the seafood restaurants. It felt as if we had come to the wrong place as there wasn’t much happening. We learned that many of the established shops had decided to continue plying their trade in the historic location. Having scouted the area of the so called Tsukiji curb market shopping street, it was time for the first meal of the day. It is not often that one does it, but it is an experience we wouldn’t want to have missed: BBQ lobster and beer for breakfast.

Standing amidst a slowly growing number of visitors, we nibbled on freshly prepared lobsters that couldn’t have been out of the water for long. At only ¥1000 (SGD $12.00) per lobster, this was a steal. There is something for every budget and taste. One may stand and eat cheap or be seated in an expensive establishment. Exploring the small alleys and backyards we found scallops topped with sea urchin, sashimi and sushi bars, octopus on skewers and, surprisingly, BBQ Wagyu beef. The latter might appear a bit out of place, but it offered a bit of a palate cleanser amongst all the fish. Whatever one desires in terms of fresh seafood can be found here. From relatively normal salmon sashimi to fish heads that would fill an entire pot, from crab to fish eggs. In addition to all the pots in which the produce is prepared in, the Tsukiji Fish Market is a melting pot of nations. As we ate, more and more visitors arrived.

What started out as a slow Sunday morning turned into a carnival of smells, flavour, food and folks. By noon, the streets were heaving with every shop vying for customers, promotors shoving flyers at tourists and visitors looking in awe at the exotic (and sometimes strange) seafood. Being it a multifacetted experience, I am yet to determine what was more exciting: the fresh seafood in all its variety and tastes or how this icon of craft and trade morphed from what seemed to be a near miss as we were too early to a thumping celebration, akin to a pilgrimage.

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