Tsukiji fish market. Sushi breakfast. More toilet tales. Salarymen. Ginza.
03.04.2013 16 °C
Today we were on the go go for 13.5 hours. So much for relaxation.... Fortunately the head cold symptoms are disappearing.
It rained during the night and all day until late afternoon. It makes for a pretty good Blade Runner feeling, but doesn't encourage browsing. I should have worn more layers, it was chilly at times.
The day started with close encounters of the Salarymen kind. These men are a species of their own. They are so uniform it is comical. Mandatory black suits, small bag and umbrella. Plus or minus newspaper. They travel singly, couples or in packs. A very serious facial expression is standard.
They also move in streams so at times crossing the current can be a challenge. We did this several times today. I don't understand, but they are around at any time of the day, so perhaps they are not always confined to the office doing very important business.
We decided to avoid the fish auction at the ungodly and freezing times of 5 and 5.40am and went to see the market aspect instead. That opens at 9am. There are no directions to follow, you are handed a map of the entire site, mostly in Japanese, which is pretty much useless and then you are allowed to wander around wherever you want. This means you risk being run over by trucks, speedy gas powered cargo trolleys driven by very intent men with the get out of my way look. You need eyes at the back of you head here. Managed to locate the fish stalls with no broken bones or injury.....
The most amazing thing, apart from the vast zoologically educational array of sea creatures both known and mysterious, is the absence of fishy smell. I could smell the ocean when we arrived at the nearby train station, and after getting used to that, there is no smell to mention. Noise however is a different matter. You hear the gas trolleys, the sound of business, shrieking bandsaws and the pervasive sound of squeaking polystyrene chiller boxes (Eskies for my Aussie readers!). Unlike usual markets there is not a lot of yelling. Japanese people are fairly quiet everywhere and this busy market was no exception. I was fascinated by the frozen blocks of tuna being cut bandsaws. No safety gloves or guards. Massive chunks of ice are cut by hand with dangerous saws as well. Everything is performed with speedy surgical precision. I should mention that the Tsukiji market is old and looks it. There is nothing new and it is very cramped. The sea creatures are sold from tanks, Eskies, packets, in sawdust, plastic bags or trays. After a while you start to see it when you close your eyes, it was endless.
Now to breakfast. A fluke or careful calculation got us to the little place where we had a voucher for a sushi breakfast. It was deluxe, made in front of us and so fresh it was unlike anything I've ever had. Even the raw fish, which I would usually avoid or eat with extreme caution, was superbly tasty, soft and delicate. So breakfast became brunch really. Fabulous stuff. I loved the welcome cries of each of the 6 sushi chefs when customers arrived. Each tie-wearing chef had his signature cry so it was like a little campanological experience with the last guy being the bass.
A number of train hops and we arrived at Tokyo Station to get the JR vouchers exchanged for actual tickets. These are for the journey to Nikko on Friday. Tokyo Station is one enormous station. Just imagine Central Station in NYC and multiply it by 30 and you might get it. Mind you, it's not easy to know where it starts or ends. There are tunnels and walkways and shopping arcades and food halls on and on and on..... We had a drink and cake in a tea salon there.
Now here I must mention, the Japanese are obsessed with all things French. I was amused to see that Engrish is not unique. There is also widespread misuse of French: made up words, meaningless phrases and spelling/grammatical errors. Would I be wrong in suggesting that despite all this the Japanese might be more French than the French themselves? I've never in my life seen such perfect cakes, pastries, confections or displays..... The bread is fabulous, the food displays are so pretty. Paul thought we had walked into the cosmetic section of the store. The lighting and counters not being dissimilar. How about a nice costume ring with a massive gemstone ..... Made of SUGAR? I had to ask the lady at the counter if I'd read it correctly (and that's not because it was in French).
We walked up to see the Imperial Palace, but there's not much to be seen. But the best thing was, it stopped raining!
Humorous interlude related to toilets... Not only is there an array of buttons, but today I experienced the thoughtfully supplied electronic automated tinkling sound of water in a bowl as I went about my private business in the cubicle. This is supposed to hide embarrassing sounds. Ok....... I have yet to see the deodoriser function (Sheri, thanks for the warning).
Ginza. Everyone recognises the famous intersection here. It is really awesome at twilight and night, which is when we were there. I couldn't help but remember Times Square last year. I didn't feel as safe there and it wasn't easy to look around there because the crowds were too big to stop and look. Ginza was different.
We looked in the Sony store. Some very impressive TVs in there. Paul spent big. He bought a pair of earphones. LOL!
It's late now. I had better get some sleep. Another big day tomorrow and our last in Tokyo. Will I find the toilet deodoriser, get stuck in a swarm of salarymen or find something else made out of sugar?