Markets around the world - Tsukiji Fish Market (Tokyo)
One of my colleagues has a wonderful quote that he uses at the beginning of every one of his presentations:
While I generally believe that every person has their own style of travel and that no one style is better than another, I have always found it amusing to see tourists who travel to a new place and refuse to try the food there, learn about the culture or just generally try to keep an open mind about the place they're visiting. I've never thought of myself as the most adventurous person in the world, but whenever I've travelled to a new country, I've embraced the people, culture, food, etc, and subsequently had an amazing time because I kept an open mind. Of course being a huge foodie and avid photographer has also helped me open myself up more than I would have otherwise thought I was capable of.
Taking all this into account, there are few places I enjoy visiting more than local markets. There is no better place (in my opinion) to truly get a taste of what a country or city is like than by visiting a local market. You get to see all the hustle & bustle, hear all the sounds and languages, smell all the local smells you wouldn't get back home and taste the local cuisine to top it all off. As a matter of fact, if I look back and reminisce about some of my favourite memories or meals, many of them bring me back to wonderful times in different markets around the world.
The most recent market I had the pleasure of visiting was the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. True to my previous paragraph, it was probably my favourite part of Tokyo and for anyone who's been to Tokyo, you know that's saying a lot! One of Tokyo's most iconic districts, the Tsukiji Fish Market is a mixture of sights, smells, sounds, tastes and chaos all packed into one.
For those lucky and brave enough to wake up early on the off chance that they'll actually find room, the fish auction is apparently a sight to behold. The auction begins at 5am (which means you have to be there even earlier), with vendors buying and selling seafood that will make its way across the city afterwards. Tokyo is known for having some of the best seafood i the entire world (why do you think their sushi is so good!) and this is where it all begins.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to the auction itself, but I was able to visit the market a little later in the morning and what an experience it was. Even at 10am in the morning, the market was packed with tourists and locals alike, some buying seafood, some wandering in and out of the little shops and some just wandering around and taking the entire experience in. It was such a surreal experience that I started off by just walking around and soaking as much of the atmosphere in as I possibly could.
Of course I had come there for breakfast, a sushi breakfast to be exact. I had read that you could get an amazing sushi breakfast at the market, but oddly enough that didn't up happening. Instead I walked around, grabbing little bites to eat from different stalls. A bag of octopus shavings here, some grilled scallops there and maybe some traditional Japanese omelet to top it all off. It was basic, simple and one of the most delicious "meals" I can remember having. I would even consider putting it at the top of my meals in Tokyo, and considering my love for (and consumption) of sushi, that's no small feat.
I don't know if I'll ever make it back to the Tsukiji Fish Market (although I have a good feeling I will one day), but even if I don't, I will always have that memory with me. It's so vivid that as I write this I can see, hear and smell the market as I walk through it in awe. I also mentioned that the market has a lot of little shops. Well lots of those shops sell handmade/hand-carved knives that are among the best in the world. Carbon or stainless steal, Japanese traditional or Western handles, I was able to walk into one of these shops and choose from the widest selection of knives available.
I ended up purchasing a sleek stainless steel knife that I will have with me for the rest of my life. Handmade from the highest quality materials, the knife also has an engraving so that I will always know which shop I bought it from. I usually try to buy useful "souvenirs" when travelling and this one is easily going to go down as one of the best. I'll know be able to cook with one of the highest quality knives in the world and every time I do, I'll remember where I got it from and what an amazing experience my trip to Tokyo was.