Tsukiji Food Market Tour with Arigato Japan
Arigato Japan Food Tours is the tour operator behind the best food tours in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. This time, Aymeric and Larisa, our team members got the chance to try out one of the tours that made their name on Google, the Tsukiji Food Market Tour. Let’s follow us to the best culinary spots in Tsukiji and have a taste of Japanese original cuisine.
Our meeting point is Turret Coffee Tsukiji – a small local coffee shop tucked away in a side street. The aroma of freshly made coffee wafting softly in the shop. Larisa tried out their espresso macchiato, and the taste was richly creamy and complex with a sweet after taste. The shop immediately became Larisa’s favorite spot for coffee. The barista, who seems like the owner, was super friendly and he smiled from ear to ear when she said thanks for the delicious coffee.
Our guide today is Mandy, who is originally from Pennsylvania, US and it’s impressive that this is her 9th year in Japan. Mandy’s knowledge about Japan, Japanese culture and Japanese culinary was actually a highlight of the tour.
The Tour Starts...
After a short orientation about the tour and Tsukiji Market, we were asked if we know what Tsukiji means. Of course, we couldn’t answer Mandy’s question =)) Mandy spent her time to explain in great detail about the name behind the market which was once famous for its tuna auction and known as the world’s largest fish market. We became even more excited as the tour was about to start and we would certainly learn many interesting things about the market and the food behind it.
Our tour happened on Thursday, a weekday, so when we were walking on the streets, we could catch sights of Tokyo’s daily bustling life with salarymen donned in suits hurrying to their offices and tourists leisurely taking a stroll around the area. Our first stop is a spot where you can see, touch and have yourself pictured with Tsukiji famous turret truck which, in its heyday, was used for transporting goods in the inner market. Mandy gave us a very detailed explanation and even an interesting story behind this truck. Without joining the tour, we could never have known all this information.
We walk past the shops and restaurants which had started serving customers. Our eyes were filled with so much delicious food on display like king crabs, oysters, and lobsters. Well, you can certainly have these for breakfast if you are visiting Tsukiji.
Our second stop of the tour is a hidden local small shop for Japanese-styled breakfast. Mandy, our lovely guide took almost no time to start ordering and we were immediately served with “Kin Mei Dai” tataki-style sashimi. This Golden Eye Snapper is among Japanese favorite fishes and it didn’t disappoint us. Before starting our meal, Mandy gave us some lessons for the Japanese table manner, we learn basic Japanese phrases for saying thanks before and after the meal, as well as how to use our chopsticks the right way.
The button prawn sashimi was so fresh and yummy that our tour buddy, Serena who came from the US couldn’t stop her compliment. Then the salmon’s fatty belly and white rice came with miso soup. Our tour mates couldn’t wait further and started gorging on the delicious grilled salmon immediately. Traditional Japanese breakfast always comes with grilled fish, miso soup, and some pickles. We were having spicy bamboo shoot pickles, and it added a nice touch to the meal by balancing out the fattiness of the salmon belly. Japanese love their pickles so much that they try to pickle everything from pumpkin to the local fresh ginger, that’s what Mandy said, and we couldn’t agree with her more.
We all felt so full after the warm hearty traditional breakfast and said “gochisosamadeshita” to the lovely staff at the shop and were returned with friendly smiles. And the tour went on… We walked past shops with very long queues. It’s not even autumn, yet we felt like many tourists are cramping the lines of many small shops.
Our next stop is a shop which sells tamagoyaki – sweetened Japanese rolled omelette that resemble mini bars of golden pillows. As we were still feeling full from our Japanese breakfast, we share half the slice of the bar. The golden-yellow sweetened fluffy egg instantly melted in our mouths, it’s more like a dessert than a savory treat.
The locals started filling up the market too, many are shopping for their groceries. Mandy took us to one of the buildings which now hosts the remains of the Tsukiji market, the shops which didn’t make the move to Toyosu.
Our eyes were instantly filled with fresh seafood, crabs and oysters etc. Mandy let us try the grilled oysters. They were so fresh we could even imagine that they were just got caught freshly from the sea 1 minute ago.
We passed by a row of vending machines which sell drinks from coffee to tea, hot to cold. Mandy once again asked us a difficult question, how many vending machines are there in Japan – which is always known as the country with the most vending machines in the world – with one vending machine per an estimated 40 persons.
None of us could answer that. Could you answer this question?
After a short break at the vending machine stop, we continued our trip and were excited about window-shopping all the food again. There were octopus, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, you name it. While we were busy taking pictures, Mandy didn’t forget doing her shopping for our picnic later. It’s the season of matsutake – a special Japanese mushroom, and we can see that many were being displayed. Japanese always like to have this grilled and it is said to be a delicate fragrant type of mushroom.
The market is very clean, even though it’s wet market. There was almost no smell or whatsoever.
There was free food for you to try before deciding to buy these fish eggs. They are considered delicate in Japanese culinary and normally very highly priced. And of course, Mandy bought some grilled eels for our picnic party later. As Mandy is a frequent customer, the sales lady was picking the best cuts for us. We just couldn’t wait to try these fatty bites.
After visiting the inner marketing, we ventured outside and immediately filled with a delicate aroma of katsuobonito – Japanese dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna. They were being dried on the side of the street, that’s the first time that we have seen such big amount of katsuobonito. The traditional shops bonito flakes just sit next to it. They are cut into thin flakes, and then put into big brown paper bags for customers. The price depends on the part of the fish where it’s made of.
Mandy then took us to the nearby shrine. It was a sunny day, at 11PM the sun started to shine more brightly and we could feel the heat, however, immediately when we entered the shine, the gingko trees wrapped us in its cool shadows from the wide branches filled with green leaves. The late summer’s soft breeze gently brought the aroma from the bonito shops to this side of the shrine. We could imagine that in the autumn, when the trees’ leaves turn yellow, it must be much more beautiful.
Mandy took her time to explain to us on manners how to visit a temple/shrine in Japan. We then stopped and prayed. It was so peaceful that I felt like time stopped for a second. Who would have expected that you can have such Zen moment in a walking food tour?
After that, we came back to the other side of the indoor wet market, and Mandy continued shopping for groceries while explaining to us the Japanese traditional way of eating things such as whale meat. It’s still a very controversial topic, however, with the information that I’ve learned from Mandy then, even though it used to be the main source of protein due to the poor condition of Japan after World War II, nowadays, Japanese young people do not eat whale meat any longer as there are many other options for protein..
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We passed by different fisheries and learnt about tuna’s different cuts. Finally, we went up to the 3rd floor of the building – where eating is allowed and started enjoying Mandy’s pickup from the market.
After the walk around the market, our stomachs are ready again to enjoy more Japanese food. It’s the first time some of us try fugu fish sashimi.
We felt so full after the picnic, yet, Mandy took us to the traditional Japanese fish-shaped cake, Taiyaki. We all chose red-bean paste filling for our cakes.
The tour finished and we didn’t know that it’s this much fun after a morning full of delicious food, knowledge about Japanese culture and culinary. A Newsweek reporter wrote: “Arigato presents a blend of authentic and popular cuisines with historic and cultural context. You’re not simply gorging on good food, you’re learning why Tokyo eats what it eats. And if you come hungry, you’ll leave happy.” and we can’t agree with them more, we left happy and we will definitely come back for another tour with Arigato Japan Food Tours. Next time we will probably join their Shibuya Street Food Tour to experience other hidden gems in Shibuya – another very popular area in Tokyo.
Special Offer for Modern Living Tokyo Residents
We are very happy to announce that we’ve collaborated with Arigato Japan Food Tours and all our Modern Living Tokyo Residents, you will be able to get a 10% discount from the normal rates for all tours. Please refer to the code which will be sent to you while booking the tours from their website. We hope that you will enjoy your tours as much as we did.
With much love,
Modern Living Tokyo Team