Our first major destination in Tokyo was the Tsukiji Fish Market, and given our misgivings with the metro the previous day, we came prepared to dominate navigation for the day. Because the metro stations are so large in Tokyo, we knew it was in our best interest to to check the map in the station for the correct exit number and follow the yellow signs to ensure we got to the right place most efficiently.
We found another Western-looking couple and their two small girls also looking at the map, and asked if they were headed to the fish market. Indeed, they were, so we ventured in the same direction. Small talk led to the usual round of questions, and we soon determined that Kyle grew up in Sunbury, Ohio which is a few short miles from where J and I grew up! His bride Kelly was from Michigan and knew exactly where Owosso is, where my mom grew up and I spent a good bit of time visiting my grandparents over the years. They were both Michigan State alums so we couldn’t be too good of friends but what a small world!
Sights of the market: big-eye fish varieties, octopus, scallops, butchering and mongering.
The six of us enjoyed the sights, smells and sounds of the market, with all kinds of seafood in all directions. Some crabs in tanks, some octopus and eel in styrofoam containers, and still other large tunas being filleted by expert fishmongers. They were already starting to pack up for the day around when we arrived, as restaurants and other wholesale purchasers come for the goods right at 9 AM and things move quickly. If you really want in on the market action, you can wake up to stand in line at 4 AM to catch the 5 o’clock tuna auction, and perhaps witness the sale of a single tuna for thousands of dollars! On our way out of the market, we stopped to purchase a fillet knife to go with our Japanese chef knife at home, a gift from friends that we have grown to love.
Knife sharpening, tentacles, enjoying the tiny box trucks, and our new friends from Hawaii/Ohio/Michigan.
We parted ways with our new friends and headed next to the Meiji shrine, a temple-esque structure near the Harajuku area of Tokyo. The shrine was built for Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, who reigned over Japan from 1867 to 1912. Originally built in 1915, it was destroyed in World War II air raids and rebuilt in 1958. It is located in the midst of a beautiful, serene park covering 175 acres.
Despite the overcast weather, it was a peaceful walk through a sacred space, and we were even lucky enough to witness a traditional wedding procession. The bride and groom, astute in formal garb and proper posture, had a gathering of family and friends with them as well as clergy who were leading the ritual. Short, yet sweet, it was a great way to experience a Tokyo landmark.
Traditional Japanese wedding ritual at Meiji Shrine.
The next pit stop of our journey through the city was a most amazing lunch in Harajuku. Surrounded by Tokyo’s famous shopping district, we used our pocket guide book (and some help from a convenience store clerk) to navigate to a Lonely Planet recommended dumpling joint. We feasted on fantastic fried and steamed dumplings, rice and soup, savoring the garlic and chive flavors and discussing the pros and cons of buying a dumpling-fryer when we return home.
Paying our bill meant no more dumplings, but alas, we had some friends to meet at our hotel for the evening. It had started to sprinkle, so we scurried back to the metro to pick up our luggage and head to our “morgue-style” lodging, as some might call it. Find out next what it’s like to sleep in a capsule!