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Aug 3, 2012 01:30 PM

Eating in Tsukiji

I know there have been many past threads on eating in Tsukiji, but I've searched back through them and think the advice I'm looking for is a little different, so hope it's OK to start a fresh one...

My husband and I are looking forward to our first trip to Japan, this October.

I've spent the last few months planning our 17 night itinerary, and have now booked all the accommodations - a mix of ryokans and hotels. We're on a reasonably tight budget but have included a number of splurges too, and balanced them with cheaper options elsewhere.

For our first two nights on arrival (into Narita) we're booked into a hotel located within the Tsukiji outer market.

On the third day, we'll be heading out of Tokyo (for the time being, back later) to Takayama. We'll likely make a reasonably early start as I want to spend some time in Takayama and area.

So anyway, back to Tsukiji:

Firstly: keeping in mind that I know I don't have the palate to distinguish the very very best sushi and sashimi from that which is merely excellent or even good, am I right in thinking that there are many many little restaurants I can visit for breakfast sushi rather than queuing for Daiwa Sushi or Sushi Dai? That provide a similar offering of set price menus / a la carte ordering for similar or lower price points? If so, are there any you recommend, or is it just a matter of turning up and picking?

(Another thing that puts me off queuing is that I have some hip / back issues which means standing in a queue for half an hour is enough to make me miserable let alone an hour or even an hour and a half).

Secondly: I'm assuming that local vendors are very very used to tourists taking photos, is this the case? I'd love to spend some time exploring and taking things in and then capturing some nice photos. We'll probably spend a few hours in the area, I think.

Thirdly: Given that we can be there from very early right through to noon or later, is there a time that is better / worse for crowds and queues?

Fourthly: Are all / most / some of the sushi restaurants open for evening dinner? If so, are they less crowded as most tourists come in the morning for the fish auctions, or still pretty busy? And are there any you would recommend I seek out? If not sushi, others I should look for?

Lastly: given the requirement to keep walking to a minimum (and budget restrictions which mean public transport is better than taxis) can you suggest other things we could do with the remaining half day which wouldn't see us haring across town but staying fairly local?

We will have another 4 nights back in Tokyo at the end, though one day we'll spend visiting Nikko and another will likely be dedicated to a bit of shopping. Mostly food and kitchen stuff.

By the way, I'm trying to limit our food spending to 12,000 Y a day between us. I realise this is pretty low, especially since we'll want to exceed it some days so will need to come in under it other days. This is just to give an indication of what budget level I'm aiming at, if it helps. Please don't hesitate to recommend places above that, as I'm looking for some options for splurges too. Our splurges are more in the line of 24,000 Y a day though, not 100,000 Y!

(I'm not including in the splurges the nights we've already booked in to some high end ryokans where dinner is included as I've counted that into my accommodation costs).

Thanks for any advice, and please let me know if you need further information from me to be able to help.

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  1. I can provide some broad strokes and maybe others can fill in details.

    1- There are several branches of a chain called Sushi Zanmai that are priced similarly. I believe they are open 24-7. There are other inexpensive chain places beyond the outer market.

    2- Pictures are fine. Just don't kiss the merchandise like one of your countrymen did a few years ago at the tuna auction. It's a working market, with lots of activities and little scooters plying about. If you have mobility issues, be aware of your surroundings.

    3- I don't think a half day or even more than 3 hrs is necessary for Tsukiji. It's quite compact and it's not a retail seafood market. The outer shops though are interesting for kitchen/housewares. You can buy stuff from them.... The tuna auction is early in the morning around 5-6am. Things get less intense closer to noon. The tourists line up until noon at least.

    4- The independent cheap tourist ones like Sushi Dai close around noon and do not reopen. The cheaper chain places stay open most of the day. The nice sit down ones will have lunch and dinner hours.

    Lastly: Ginza is close by. Ueno is a short subway ride. Really, within 15 minutes you can travel to all kinds of places. Kappabashi is the well-known restaurant and kitchen supply neighborhood.

    We've covered plenty of higher end to full-on splurge sushi places extensively here. Research should reveal some options. Overall, your budget is modest but very doable for good eating.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      Thanks Silverjay, great food for thought!

      Chains work for us, thanks for the recommendations. Outer market inexpensive is good...

      I would never dream of kissing the merchandise, a fellow Brit did that recently, really? What were they thinking?! Would have served them right if the vendor had made them buy it, for several thousands pounds! Ha! :-)

      Will be careful of my surroundings. Mobility wise I'm either as normal or with a walking stick, and with the hotel nearby, can always go rest if gets too much...

      Good to know in terms of time needed. So looks like we'll get ourselves up early that first morning and see where we go from there.

      When you say "nice sit down ones", are those still within the budget I gave, or are we talking a bit more?

      Kappabashi is very much on my list for shopping, we'll be staying in Akasaka for our last 4 nights in Tokyo so planning to hit then.

      The splurge places, I've read lots and lots about here, but to be honest, I think most of the ones most commonly discussed are way above even our splurge budget. With my inexperienced palate, I simply don't think I'd appreciate the difference in quality to make it worthwhile to pay hundreds of pounds each for one meal. I love sushi and other Japanese food in London, but have been told by many friends that even the cheapest places in Japan will beat anything we have for quality anyway...

      Glad to know the budget is doable.

      Thanks again

      1. re: Kavey

        There are places in various price ranges. If you're worried about going over 6,000 YEN per person, you can aim for a lunch deal.

        1. re: Silverjay

          We were hoping that we could spend 6000 Y per person for a day, so lunch and dinner... but that may not be realistic. That said, often enough we'll be looking for ramen, tonkatsu, yakitori type meals...

        2. re: Kavey

          Oops, Asakusa not Akasaka. Must stop doing that. Just working on new thread for Tokyo dining options now I have a more detailed itinerary in place.

      2. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Inner Market isn't open to the public until 9am (other than the tuna auction, and of course the handful of restaurants located there). The Outer Market is open all morning though.

        While you're in Tsukiji you might also consider trying the excellent unagi at Miyagawa ( ). If you don't want to sit on the floor, ask for table seating when you reserve.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Robb S

          I do agree, there is so many local food in Tokyo, so many variety to enjoy and more than anything you would like to come back for that little ones !!
          The outer market is little alleys of food, kitchen ustensiles,., and between them you have the sushi Sei 寿司精 open from 9:30 on week days. They have different lunch sets, and if on the morning you can't eat that much just order 'a la carte(okonomi)', but be careful to not exceed the 6-8 pieces or it will exceed the price menu.
          After, if you want to try a menu based only on white fish sushi, on the opposite of the Temple, there is the sushi Kiraku (around 3500-yens for dinner).
          After for a light dinner, the soba Nartomi recommended also by RobbS is a block from Tsukiji Market, and I did like their Gobo Tempura Seiro at 1100yens !!

          1. re: Ninisix

            Ah, this is fantastic, thank you, just the kind of places I need. Very grateful.

          2. re: Robb S

            Oh I love unagi, thank you!

            I'm still debating on whether to try and get tickets to the tuna auction, actually.

            I've been to trader-only auctions in fish markets before, though I realise Tsukiji is not like ones elsewhere, but I'm somewhat worried about standing tightly packed within an enormous group of ticket holders, in the small designated area, for long period...

            1. re: Robb S

              There are 24-hour sushi restaurants open near Tsukiji (the neighborhood would be classified as Tsukiji), of course that's not quite the superior quality one may desire. Though if you enjoy a late night bike ride/amble, a combo convenience store/sushi meal might be in order. Very tranquil in those parts at night, but to be sure, the wholesale market employees do come in the early a.m.'s to work...