Tsukiji Fish Market, (No) Sumo and Akihabara

Up at 8, down for breakfast and then ready in the lobby at 9 to meet Bec for Monday’s adventures. We aimed for the Samurai Museum – which is only a couple of streets behind the hotel – but it didn’t open until 10:30 and so it got pushed down the list to look at later in the day, which we didn’t do.

Instead we caught the subway across town to the Tsukiji Fish Market. This is where tonnes and tonnes of fish is sold. The most famous aspect of it is the tuna auction, which takes place early in the morning, and at times is open to the public to watch. I think it’s closed to tourists at the moment, and we weren’t there at 5am so we didn’t see this.

We also weren’t quite sure whether the markets were open to tourists. It might have been if you knew where you were going and were fast on your feet to avoid the trucks and lifters. Instead, we spent time in the Outer Markets looking at different food and knick-knacks for sale.

Glen was pretty intrigued with a lot of things, keen to try whatever was going around, though surprisingly he only bought two things. The first was a pastry in the shape of a fish that was stuffed with sweet bean paste (I had some, it was tasty) and the second being a fish cake, which he didn’t like very much and I didn’t sample.

We saw a lot of fish and shellfish for sale, in various states from live, freshly dead and untouched, prepared, dried and fried. There were people everywhere, a mix of tourists and locals who just wanted to get their stuff and get out. After a lot of wandering we eventually settled on a sushi place. I don’t think it was the one that was recommended to us as it was too nice looking. There were a bunch of others by the fish market where you’d get your ‘authentic’ sushi but they were small and crammed with people, and with an hour-long line out the front. We didn’t need their sushi that badly.

Instead, the place we settled on was roomy and delicious. We sat at the counter, gave the chef our order and then food was placed on the plate in front of us. I must have annoyed him something terrible as I’d ordered four pieces, and then two, and then three, and then two again. Meanwhile Japanese people nearby ordered one plate and were done with it.

Museums and gardens

After this late morning/early lunch meal, where resting our legs was a major highlight, we caught the train to the Sumo Museum. The museum is inside the large sumo stadium. The museum is one room, displaying photos or carvings of the sumo champions. Unfortunately, there were no sumo matches going on when we were there. If we come back, I think we’ll plan this better as it would be interesting to see.

On the walk back to the train station we stopped into the Former Yasuda Gardens, which are currently undergoing renovations but nevertheless are a quiet oasis in bustling Tokyo. We wandered around the pond where giant koi leapt out of the water and gardeners carefully and patiently weeded the moss. It was a nice interlude.

The Edo-Tokyo Museum was next but, it being a Monday, it was closed. Instead we got a jam donut – field with red bean paste rather than jam – and continued to the next train station where we caught the subway to Akihabara.

Tech, nap, eat

Akihabara is the tech district and is full of, well, tech stuff. We stopped into a Japanese anime/manga store and had a look around, before going to a figurine store that sold things to do with different anime as well as superheroes and Star Wars paraphernalia. By the time we left, our legs were so sore and tired that we decided against doing much else. Glen waited in line for a chocolate tart, which tasted like pre-cooked cake batter, and then we caught the train back to the hotel.

We had a nap – which I was surprised about as I never nap back home – before getting up at 7 to once again go in search of food. We decided to eat inside one of the nearby department stores, Lumine Est, as there was likely to be more options available within a limited space. Department store restaurants are also very popular with Japanese people so it wasn’t like it was a tourist trap.

We settled on a bento-type place that was decorated with funky decor, a bit like an Ikea store. We each got three things in our set, including some vegetables (soy beans mostly), a soba soup and a salad/rice combo. I was full by the end of it and much less stressed than if we’d wandered the streets for hours. After that we had a crepe, then went home to sleep. I had a big travel day planned for Tuesday so was keen to get some more rest.

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