If you’re coming back from a Tokyo trip, the number one question you’ll be asked is “Did you go to the fish market?”. While I can answer “yes” to that question, we unfortunately didn’t make it to the famous tuna auction.
Tsukiji fish market is the world’s largest wholesale fish and seafood market and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. We almost didn’t make it here since we visited during Golden Week, their week-long holiday. The market had been closed for a number of consecutive days but reopened on the last day of our trip. As you can imagine, there was an extra influx of tourists.
Our hotel concierge had warned us and we didn’t even try for the tuna fish auction which apparently people had to line up at 2am for. They only let in a 120 visitors per day on a first-come, first-served basis. While we didn’t want to pull an all-nighter for the auction, we arrived at the fish market at 4am to wait in line for Sushi Dai’s famous sushi breakfast.
Sushi Dai doesn’t open until 5am but when we arrived, the line was already pretty substantial. One of the servers came to the end of the line, gave us an apologetic smile and said it would be a 4 hour wait from where we were. It’s a good thing we didn’t wait until 5am to take the subway here (we cabbed). By the time 6am rolled around, the line was insane – we heard people getting quoted for 6+ hour waits.
During our wait, we wandered around the outskirts of the market, where all the restaurants are. There’s a bit of everything here – vendors selling fruits, vegetables, books and other knick knacks. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from but without a doubt, Sushi Dai is the most popular. Daiwa is another popular sushi joint with quite the line but it was nowhere as crazy as Sushi Dai.
Sure enough, after four hours, we were seated at 8:00am. The restaurant is extremely cramped inside – there’s a sushi bar down one side of the restaurant where the chefs work and counter seating wrapped around the bar. There’s only a small window of space for a single server to get by between the stools and wall.
Sushi Dai offers two set menus but we went with the more expensive option at 4,000yen (around $40CAD) for 10 pieces of nigiri (chef’s choice) + 1 of your choice + a roll + miso soup. After waiting four hours, there was no way we were going to skimp out!
Here’s a look at what was included (the sushi was served one piece at a time as it was prepared):
Octopus and Maki (tuna & cucumber with white fish)
We both left incredibly satisfied. The sushi was undoubtedly delicious but was it worth the 4-hour wait? I’ve never even waited close to that amount of time for food before and I’m really not sure what would be worth a four hour wait. While I loved the sushi, I wouldn’t wait another four hours for it. Once was enough!
We finished before 9am which gave us just enough time to check out the actual fish market. Apparently they don’t allow visitors in it (unless you plan on purchasing something) until after 9am as the vendors are starting to close up shop. I can see why they don’t like tourists very much…it’s pretty crazy in there. Aisles are narrow and forklifts are flying at high speeds – it could be very dangerous!
If you’re planning on visiting Tsukiji next year, you should know that they are moving to a new location in 2016 (in the Toyosu area). So, make sure you do your research! Here are a few more pictures of Tsukiji market:
So much uni!
Some nice looking octopus
De-spining the tuna… which took 3 men to do. The tuna fish at the market were huge!
At a glance:
- Sushi Dai is easily the most popular sushi restaurant in Tsukiji Fish Market
- The restaurant opens at 5am but the line will start well before that; we arrived at 4am and weren’t seated until 8am
- Offer two nigiri combos – the more expensive menu (4000 yen at the time of visit) included 10 nigiri (chef’s choice) + 1 nigiri of your choice + a roll + miso soup
- Loved the sushi but wouldn’t wait 4 hours again for it… I don’t know if any food is worth a 4 hour wait!
- Personable sushi chefs; English-friendly
Ratings (out of 5):
- Food: 4.5 stars
- Service: 4 stars
- Atmosphere: 3 stars