June 24, 2008
Photo set on Flickr (Part of the Tokyo 2008 set)
Almost every time I am in Tokyo I would invariably find myself waking up extremely early at least once, and this time was no exception. Perhaps my body knows one of my favourite things to do in Tokyo is to visit the Tsukiji Market, which is at its busiest every morning from 4 – 7 am. After a rather exhausting week in Kansai, we could both use some more sleep. But in my mind, there wasn’t really a choice.
For all its popularity, the Tsukiji Market is not designed as a tourist attraction. It is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, employing tens of thousands of people. Even though we had no intention to buy anything, we headed inside the wholesaler market where the distributors and retailers were frantically preparing the day’s stock. I could identify less than 10% of the creatures being sold. As vehicles and people constantly flashed by, we became acutely aware of our whereabouts to avoid getting in the way of the ceaseless flow of activities and movements. Just being there gave me a kick similar to drinking a large cup of coffee.
Our alert state was a huge drain to our energy level and our bodies had signaled to us that it was time to grab some food. We ditched the popular Sushi Dai and Sushi Daiwa and their associated long queues. Instead, we chose a random sushi shop in Zone 6. The bill came higher than expected, but it was not everyday we could have fresh sushi for breakfast.
We then moved on to Ikebukuro, a district I feel lukewarm about at best. To be honest, after so many times to Tokyo, it is hard to conjure any fresh perspective about the metropolis. Each new visit rewards a diminishing level of returns. I am trapped in a no man’s land – my initial level of excitement has long been replaced by a vague sense of familiarity without developing any genuine in-depth understanding. I know some people who swear by Tokyo’s top notch shopping and dining, but I don’t travel for these reasons. The Tsukiji Marker is one of the rare exceptions; its scale and activity level is one of a kind. Moreover, due to the market’s oft-rumored relocation plan, I treat every visit as potentially my last.