Any first time traveller to Japan will quickly learn two things: one is that food is a very serious business, and the other is that the sushi on offer is the best in the world. But everyone knows, the best of anything often comes with a price tag. In Tokyo especially, if you don’t know where to go, a decent sushi fix can burn a serious hole in your wallet, but the sushi bars surrounding the world famous Tsukiji fish market serve arguably some of the best sushi and sashimi at reasonable prices. And there’s no question mark over its freshness, with the tuna and salmon having been hauled off fishing boats only hours earlier. Tsukiji fish market is one of the largest wholesale fish and seafood markets in the world. The action kicks off around 5am, when buyers are admitted to the showroom floor to poke and prod row upon row of fish, and soon after a bidding war erupts, with a frenzy of calls and responses as buyers battle to outbid each other for their chosen catch. Unfortunately, as a result of the growing number of tourists who pack the halls to watch the mêlée, distracting the traders from their work and getting in the way, visitors are now banned from the auctions. But the tradition of having sushi for breakfast at the market remains, and for a visitor on a budget it’s a great way get a raw-fish-fix without it breaking the bank.
The sushi bars surrounding the outer edges of the market are lined up in rows of barrack-like buildings. Some have no names, and others are so tiny that they are literally holes in the wall which can barely seat half a dozen people. One of the most famous is Daiwa, for which there is almost always a long queue, although it’s both tourist and foreigner friendly. And for around $20, a set plate is an affordable option, comprising about eight pieces of sushi, a tuna roll, miso soup and tea. Alternatively you can order à la carte, costing around $4 per piece of spanking fresh fish. And if you can’t quite stomach the idea of chowing down on raw fish so early in the morning, an alternative breakfast here is ramen with a number of excellent ramen stalls on the edges of the market. Tsukiji Market is located just above Tsukiji-Shijo Station on the Toei Odeo subway line, or it’s a 10-minute walk from the Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya subway line. The fish and seafood, and vegetables and fruit markets are open until around 11 am, and the restaurants are open until around 1pm. The entire market is closed on Sundays and national holidays, and some Wednesdays.