Monday, February 6, 2012

visiting japan : tokyo 1, tsukiji market

Intro on our trip to Japan

We flew into Tokyo's Narita airport (I'm planning another post about travel to/from/within) and took the Narita Express train into Tokyo. We had researched ahead and planned to take this - finding the ticket counters was pretty easy and we also exchanged our JR Rail passes in the same place (again, more info in the travel post). We arrived in Shinjuku about an hour later. Shinjuku station is one of the busiest train stations in the world. I'd be lying if I said we didn't get lost once or twice a few times, however it's clean and safe (blanket statement for everywhere in Japan from our experience!) and we used it everyday to get around the city.

In Tokyo we stayed at the Shinjuku Prince Hotel. One of the best parts of this hotel was that we walked out of the train station and could see it within a minute. After 24+ hours of travel this was the most joyous site we could imagine. We'd highly recommend the hotel, the rooms were small (expected) but very well done, very clean - and with an amazing view of the city to boot. We had learned a few key phrases before we left (the basics-hello, my name is, thank you, it's delicious, excuse me) and the staff was so friendly, I think they appreciated our 'hello' in Japanese but spoke English to give us details of the hotel etc.
Our view as we stepped out of the train station - sensory overload!
Dinner the first night in Shinjuku. I'll be honest, this was my only bad food experience in Japan -  but since it was the first I immediately panicked that we were in trouble. I'm a pescatarian (vegetarian who eats fish, planning a post on eating veggie in Japan) and admittedly I'm a pick eater. Layer that on a menu of symbols and unfamiliar foods (we were surprised at how many places had English menus or a friendly server to help us navigate though) and I worried. This dish is a "bowl of vegetables with noodles". It's hard to really understand from the photo - but the vegetables were an extremely slimy, sticky texture. And there was the raw egg on top. And that the whole dish was served cold. Like I said, my only bad experience!
Our first morning in Tokyo we woke up very early (which wasn't a problem - I never adjusted to the time change and was awake at 4am every morning!) and took the subway to the Tsukiji Fish Market. If you go to Tokyo, you cannot miss this. The fish market is the biggest in the world (from what we were told) and where the majority of the restaurants in the city get their fresh fish everyday. It is definitely a working marketplace - NOT a touristy destination. They are kind enough to allow tourists to wander around after 9am, you're able to walk through aisle after aisle of fish stands - trying to avoid getting run over by forklifts filled with giant frozen tuna and dodging big puddles of fishy water. It's not necessarily a glamorous experience - but it is amazing to see.

Before you are able to go inside, you can walk around a little marketplace just outside the market that is filled with tiny little sushi stands and stores selling cooking supplies. We had a traditional sushi breakfast in one of the little stands and this is where our Japanese food experience shifted from yikes to good-lord-this-is-amazing. By far the freshest, most delicious sushi I have ever had (or probably will ever have) in my life. It was served with miso soup (mmm) and hot tea, perfect for early November morning.
I ordered the tuna and cooked crab bowl. I will think about that crab for the rest of my life, so. unbelievably. amazing.
My husband ordered more of a 'mixed plate' with a variety of raw fish and rolls.
Next up, the rest of our first day in Tokyo - Ginza, Ueno Park and our first real ramen experience (aka where I fell off of my chair from delicious overload).


Aline said...

love this!!! jealous of your experience, i'd love to go back to japan!

Tobe | BIA said...

oh my goodness, i cannot wait for the rest of these posts!! my trip to japan was easily one of the best times of my life -- can't wait to hear all about yours!!

cheap canvas art said...

What a brilliant post, what a wonderful experience and that's a trip of a life time!