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crime rates of any big city and I feel perfectly

safe wandering around on my own at night.

It’s a good place to linger and soak up modern

Japanese culture, or for a few drinks after

dinner. Best avoided if you can’t stand cigarette

smoke as few, like most places in Japan, are

non-smoking.

Fishy business

I’ve set my alarm for very early the next

morning. The Tsukiji Fish Market, a short walk

from Tsukiji Station and near the up-market

Ginza neighbourhood, is not only the largest

wholesale fish market in Japan, it’s the largest

on the planet.

Entrance to the market is free, but numbers

to the popular tuna auction are now tightly

controlled and only 120 per day are allowed

into the area on a first-come, first-served

basis. At 5am I’m lined up to register for the

auction; even though it’s for commercial buyers,

it’s entertaining to watch the wild frenzy of

bidding, buying and selling as the fishermen try

to get the best price for their catch, destined for

restaurants throughout Japan.

Even if you don’t see the tuna auctions there’s

plenty to enjoy at Tsukiji Market. Along with

a host of weird and wonderful produce from

the ocean (some of which you won’t be able to

identify), there are stalls selling fresh vegetables,

fruit, meat and flowers.

Dodging trucks and forklifts, I decide to grab

a bite of breakfast. The Sushi Dai restaurant in

the area just outside the market is so popular

that customers queue up in the morning for

more than two hours. I order a set course of

10 pieces of fresh seasonal sushi chosen by the

chef, plus miso soup for around $40 and, while

it’s not cheap, it’s delicious even if I do have to

eat standing up. Restaurants just outside the

market range from cheap conveyor-style to

expensive and high-end.

The wholesale market has been at its present

site since 1935 but it is scheduled to relocate to

larger and more modern premises in the nearby

Toyosu district in 2016, so now is the time to

experience it in its original location. The market

is closed Wednesdays, Sundays and holidays

and if you want to see the tuna auctions, you’ll

need to take a taxi or walk as trains don’t start

running until later in the morning.

Image by Ian Forrester

Image by Julie U

BNE July/August 2015 |

17

Tokyo is a city of sharp contrasts, from the

ancient to the modern, from heritage sites

such as the Senso-ji Temple in the Asakusa

district (

opposite page

) and the narrow

alleyways of the Golden Gai (

top centre

)

crammed with tiny bars only a few metres

wide, to the loud and brash tourist-filled

robot-themed restaurants and bars in

Shinjuku (

bottom centre

). Day or night, the

Tokyo Skytree (

above

) is impossible to miss.

It’s only the second tallest structure in the

world at 634 metres and a ‘fast ticket’ allows

international tourists to jump the queue for

the elevator ride to the top for panoramic

views of the city