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The good thing about staying up late the night before trying to search for flights is that we basically rolled right into our attempt to make the tuna auction. This time around we were smart enough to start even earlier than the last time – 3AM. Let’s just say we didn’t get much sleep.
Tsukiji Fish Market One More Time
We made the same way around and by the time we got to the entrance where the line began it was 4AM. To our surprise there was already a decent line forming. A main line was right outside the door and we stood around the corner. We waited a good hour and a half before the line started moving along. Turns out we were actually the second group of 60 in the allotted 120. The two yellow pamphlets they handed us were numbered 18 and 19, which meant we were 78 and 79 in line. I can’t imagine how early some of the others got there. It was funny but also not funny at the same time the amount of people that were turned away by the guards that came 4:30 or later.
Around 5:20AM they let us into a holding room where they handed us our blue vests and made us watch this DVD about the Tsukiji Fish Market.
Once that was done the guard escorted us in single-file down to the tuna auction area. The area we stood was at one end of the market with a barricade set up to keep us all together. At first there wasn’t much happening except buyers inspecting slices of tuna with their flashlights and taking a look at the cut open tails of the frozen tuna lined up in a row. Then all chaos broke loose when the auctioneer got up on a stool and started ringing the bell. The whole auction process is a bit of a mystery with a lot of yelling and people putting up their hands with strange hand signals. Before you know it, the auction is over and all the tuna is accounted for. We went through two auctions while we were there.
Videos of the Tuna Auction
After the auction ended we were escorted outside and most of the group headed straight to the restaurants. Because it was the Obon festival Sushi Dai was closed and everyone was lining up for another restaurant on the same aisle. We were in line to wait but I think it would’ve taken a good hour before we’d get in. Chantelle went to look around and found another restaurant in a different aisle that barely had a line at all. Not wanting to wait we jumped ship to the other restaurant and waited only 20 minutes instead. The quality at this place was unfortunately not on par with Daiwa but it was good enough to satisfy our sashimi craving.
We then went back to the Conrad to nap and then got our customary breakfast in the lounge. Felt like we just went through a full day already.
To start off part two of the day, we headed back to Shinjuku to check out the shopping in the area we missed from the day before since we only got to see the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Here there was an assortment of big electronic stores like Yodobashi where we poked around for some iPhone accessories like portable solar powered battery chargers and some smaller stores that sold things from cameras to watches.
After our loop around we got hungry and found a tiny curry place underneath some stores. I recognized this place because I had eaten at one of these in New York. It’s the curry place with a big black gorilla and called Go! Go! Curry! We had some trouble figuring out the machine where you have to pay for your order ahead of time to obtain a ticket but the lady working there helped us out and surprisingly asked us if we were Chinese and started speaking Mandarin to us. Didn’t expect that!
After Shinjuku we made our way to Ginza to see the 5th Avenue of Tokyo. There were a ton of high-end shops as you’d expect and some upper class department stores so we took a peek around a few of those. Turns out Ginza is also known for their mega cross-in-all-direction walks so I snapped a few shots there while Chantelle was checking out a store. The Sony experience store was also in the area so we were able to see all their products showcased in an aquarium theme which I thought was quite brilliant to make all their products relevant and interactive at the same time. It was in Ginza where we finally went to our first proper Uniqlo store.
For dinner we had made reservations at another of Akiko’s recommendations – Shabusen (Japanese hot pot). This place wasn’t anything special considering the amount of food you usually get at Chinese hot pot. The meal was relatively light and less flavourful. The dessert we got at the end was quite unique though as you’ll see in Chantelle’s photos. They really like using brown sugar as a sweetener.
From there we were pretty pooped so we subwayed it back to Shiodome and called it a night. Last full day in Tokyo was done and it was time to pack up for our journey back home. Chantelle had it the worst though because she had to get on a cab to the smaller Tokyo airport (Haneda) at 3:30AM in order to make her 6:10AM departure flight.
- One thing I’ve been wanting to mention is just how serious and meticulous Japanese people are. Everywhere you get served whether it’s at a restaurant or store front, the person you’re dealing with is always extremely courteous and strictly follows etiquette. You’ll hear them all say the same thing (some sort of thank you that takes 10x as long in Japanese to say for some reason), hand you your card back with two hands and always pack your purchases in the most neat and formal way. A lot of times we didn’t care for the packaging so we had to make sure we told them beforehand before they got busy with that. I was amazed that even for something like a small cheesecake to go they’d pack it in a proper box with a mini ice bag even though I had never asked for it. Attention to detail is incredible.
- I said this before but I’ll repeat it again. If you want to do the tuna auction make sure you get there by 4AM. This is no longer a hidden gem and they’ve restricted it to 120 per day so if you only have chance to try this make it count and go early. You’ll be damn tired but the experience is totally worth it. You won’t see anything like this anywhere else.
- Shabusen was on my friend’s list of restaurants but out of everything we tried I think we were the most disappointed with this one so you can probably skip it.
- Wake up at 3AM
- Start lining up at 4AM
- Enter auction area at 5:40AM
- Walk back to the Conrad to nap
- Breakfast at the Conrad Lounge
- JR to Shinjuku
- Lunch at Go! Go! Curry!
- Subway to Ginza
- Shop around
- Dinner at Shabusen
- Subway back to Conrad Tokyo
If you’re looking to do any travelling around Japan, I highly recommend picking up a JRailPass. Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase it before your trip and ship it to your home.
Check out the Next Day
To read about my adventures putting the finishing touches to Tokyo and heading back to Vancouver, Canada, check out Day 85 – Tokyo to Vancouver – Time Warp.
Curious what else I did on my trip to Asia? See the full itinerary and all 89 days.