15 Apr Tsukiji Fish Market and Sushi Class
When you plan a trip to Tokyo everyone says to go to Tsukiji Fish Market (tsue-key-gee) and eat sushi for breakfast. We found a better way to visit the market and get to enjoy sushi.
A tour and sushi making class!
The inner Tsukiji Fish Market
If you are looking at going to see Tsukiji Fish Market you will hear a lot about the “inner” and “outer” market. The inner market is where the fisherman are located with stalls selling all of their wares from the ocean. There are very narrow passageways and it is wet everywhere-obviously. This is also a sort of dangerous area. The carts that they use to deliver the fresh fish to the different vendors zip and zoom everywhere. They WILL NOT stop if you are not paying attention and get in their way. One even bumped into our tour guide and another guest in our group. Both who were watching and paying attention, but the drivers of those carts still didn’t care. Inside the inner market look around, but pay attention and look out for these carts.
The outer Tsukiji Fish market.
The outer market is where you can buy various food from vendors or stop at a standing ramen restaurant or a sushi place. We also bought some sushi plates from a cute little store and a nice woman in the outer market. The tour did not focus on the outer market, but we meandered here after our class was over.
Our tour started at 8am and we made a cursory pass through the outer market. We stopped at a vendor at the outer market and watched him cut some tuna into very delicious looking pieces. Our guides purchased some to make sushi with later. We walked on and eventually made our way to the inner market. I will say it again, watch out for the carts!
My only negative about The Tsukiji Fish Market Workshop was the walk through the inner market. There was so much going on and a lot of fish I didn’t recognize. Our guides didn’t really talk to us at all at this point. It was interesting to walk around and watch what was happening, but my personal experience would have been better with a little more education about the market.
We made our way to a fish monger and our sushi chef picked out a few live fish. He showed us how he filets the fish while they are still alive. I am cringing writing this and thinking about it all over again. I am from Oklahoma and I know where my food comes from, but this was very difficult to watch. The premise is this. The monger uses his knife and cuts the end of the tail off to expose the spine. He sticks a steel rod in the spine of the fish. This renders the fish motionless, but it does not die. Then while the fish is alive he cuts it up. Because the fish does not enter rigor mortis the meat stays supple. I can’t lie, for me it was horrible to watch. Once I learned the process I turned my back and didn’t witness anymore.
After we chose our fish and our guides made a few purchases we made our way back to their kitchen. It is on the second floor above some vendors in the outer market. It took 8 minutes to walk there from inside the market and was a perfect location.
When we walked in we removed our shoes and found a seat at one of the 3 tables sitting around the room. There were pillows for us to sit on and as soon as we settled in our guides brought us hot tea.
Our sushi chef got to work immediately.
He pulled out each of the things he purchased and explained them all to us. Tuna, salmon, halibut and the biggest scallops I have seen in my entire life. He started showing us all how to make each of the filets into sushi. There is a very specific technique to cut the fish just right so that it will eventually fit over the rice. It is also supposed to be the exact same thickness for each slice. Several people tried to cut the sushi while the chef helped them. We would just slip our feet into some shared slippers to go into the kitchen and try slicing the fish. The chef did not speak any English, but two of the other guides did so they did all the translating.
While one group focused on the fish the rest of the group chatted or watched the other guides prepare other parts of the meal. One of my favorite parts was the wasabi plant. I had no idea how wasabi was made and I thought it was fascinating.
Fresh wasabi is delicious.
We also had the choice of paying an additional 1000 Yen and doing a sake tasting. Of course we took part in sake tasting. Our guide brought out 6 bottles of sake and we served ourselves until we had our fill. I wish I would have gotten a picture, but I was too busy pouring drinks.
Once all the fish was cut and ready for us our guides and chef made plates for each table. There was a bowl of rice for each table and a plate of sliced fish. They walked us through the right way to roll the rice, putting a dab of wasabi on and then choosing a piece of fish.
We made nigiri and ate each piece as it was finished.
It was amazing. I am not just saying that because of all the sake I consumed. The fish was-obviously-very fresh and the texture was so smooth and velvety. I wish I wouldn’t have had to share the plate. I could have finished it all by myself. The tuna and the scallops were my personal favorite.
From start to finish it was about 4 hours long and we had a fabulous time. We made friends with some other guests and really enjoyed their company too. I thought the Tsukiji Market Fish tour and sushi making class was the perfect way to see the market and enjoy fresh sushi.
The market is moving in November of 2016. The summer Olympics will be in Tokyo in 2020 and they are making way for new Olympics related buildings. It is sad that this historic place will be gone, but I hear the new market is incredibly modern and the architecture will be phenomenal…as is the Japanese way. If you have a trip to Japan or Tokyo planned in 2016 then you should definitely make a visit to Tsukiji Fish Market, but look out for those carts!