Tsukiji fish market and the Tokyo Imperial Palace

I started today a little earlier, wanting to visit the Tsukiji fish market.  They hold a daily tuna auction, however you need to arrive at 5am to reserve a place and only 120 tourists are allowed to enter each day. That was a bit early for me, and I wasn’t keen on getting there at 5am with a chance that I might not even get in. Instead I arrived around 9am to check out the rest of the market.

As I walked from the station, I was following my path on Google Maps, not exactly sure how to get there. I could see the market on the map though, and when I got to the edge I found a lot of small stalls. Thinking I’d found the market, I slowed down and started to poke around.

Preserved fish on sale at the outer market
Preserved fish on sale at the outer market

There were stalls selling preserved fish, fruit and vegies and various kitchen items like bowls, knives and chopsticks.  There were some stalls with fresh fish as well, but overall I was disappointed by what I’d found.  It wasn’t as busy as I was expecting, and there was less fish than I was expecting as well.  It didn’t seem all that different to markets back home.

Fresh fruit and vegies
Fresh fruit and vegies

After spending half an hour walking through, I came out to a residential street. Thinking I’d seen the fish markets, I pulled out Lonely Planet to find somewhere to go for food. I reread the description of the market, and it was nothing like what I’d just seen. I felt like I’d missed something, so I continued down the road a bit in case there was more. I’m very glad I did, because just around the corner was the real market!

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Electric trolleys racing around the market

This was much more like what I was expecting. The market was under a large covered area, with empty boxes, puddles of fishy water and electric trolleys and forklifts zapping down narrow pathways, tooting their horns to chase shoppers out of their way.  Everywhere I turned there was something happening, with people chopping fish, counting money, cleaning knives, browsing stock. There were lots of different sounds from the squeak of polystyrene boxes, to the grind of saws cutting through fish.

A fishmonger carves up a fish
A fishmonger carves up a fish

The pathways were just wide enough for the trolleys and forklifts to fit, and as they zapped around I had to squeeze out of the way down side paths. Stall holders were emptying smelly water down drainways, and packing fish into ice filled boxes. The place was just full of action.

I spent about an hour exploring the market, and then decided it was time for lunch. Being near the fish market, the only food that seemed appropriate was sushi! I’m not a fan of seafood, especially raw fish, but I figured if I was going to try it at some point, this was that time. There are plenty of small restaurants surrounding the market, some of which had huge queues. I found one that was busy, but not packed, and ordered one of the specials which had a mixture of different types of fish and sushi. Overall I enjoyed it, although if I started thinking about it too much the slimey texture of the fish made me a little queasy. I was sitting at the bench next to the kitchen, and it was interesting to watch them preparing the sushi while I ate.

Sushi for breakfast
Sushi for breakfast

After the market I walked to the Shiodome Centre where there is another free observation deck. Unfortunately it was quite an overcast morning, but I could see down to the fish market and across the water to another part of the city. You can see the curved sheds of the fish market in the photo below.

View from the Shiodome City Centre
View from the Shiodome City Centre

The Imperial Palace isn’t far from the fish markets, so that was my next stop for the day.  I caught the train to Tokyo Station, which is an old building with a large dome above the concourse.

Outside Toyko Station
Outside Toyko Station

I wandered across to the Imperial Palace, which is surrounded by a wide moat and tall, stone walls.  I crossed over the bridge, and stopped to check a map.  I had already been referencing the maps in Lonely Planet and Google Maps so had an idea of where to go but I wanted to get my bearings before going any further.  Looking at the map I needed to turn left and walk around the outside of the wall to get to the entrance. I spent the next 20 minutes walking around the outside of the gardens heading towards what I thought was the entrance.

When I arrived, the gate was locked and there was no way in. I checked my phone to see where I was, and it was showing I had to go back the way I had come. There was another map nearby so I took a look, and it was up the opposite way!

Throughout my holiday I had found myself getting quite easily lost, and I finally understood why.  Each time I had found a map at was rotated so that the top of the map was the direction I was facing.  I, on the other hand, was expecting them all to have north at the top. Comparing my phone beside this map on the wall, it was obvious that the map on the poster was not pointing the same direction and I had gone the wrong way.

An upside down map outside the palace
An upside down map outside the palace

Hot and tired, and wondering whether it was worth the effort, I turned around to go back to the entrance. Deciding it was quicker to go directly rather than following the moat, I trekked my way across a flat expanse of gravel until 15 minutes later I was back where I started.

Heading back to the entrance
Heading back to the entrance

After all that walking, I stopped at some vending machines inside to have a drink. I thought I was ordering an iced coffee, but it turned out to be a hot coffee – not at all what I wanted!  I bought a second (cold) drink and found some shade to rest for a while before exploring the gardens.

In the end it was worth it, and there was a lot to see. As I’d found the day before at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, there were several distinct areas, each with a different theme. I was a bit disappointed that I could see the actual Palace itself, but given it’s in use it was understandable.

After an hour or so, I made my way back to the hotel to drop off my back pack and have a bit of a break.  That night Ron and I were heading to Disney Land!

Posted from Chuo, Tokyo, Japan.

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