May 17, 2013

Mr Harada advised me to make way for Tsukiji Market—the largest fish market in the world.

The Fodor’s guide lying around my friend’s house said the market closed to tourists after 6:30am. So, I set my alarm for 4:30 and was hopelessly lost in the subway system by five. 

When I got to Tsukiji station, I followed a pair of pink Scandinavian teenagers who seemed to be marching purposely toward the tuna auction.

They stopped to check in with the police force charged with keeping foreigners out of the market.

“Sooooo sorry,” said an animated senior officer as he dropped a taped finger onto a Xeroxed map of the warren of sushi shops and knick-knack stores outside the market. “Please eat delicious sushi. Sooooo good sushi.”

The leader of our expedition, a plump 20 year-old, had been turned away in January. Nowadays, he said, they don’t let anyone in who doesn’t get in line before two or three in the morning.

Undaunted, they snuck along the perimeter and plunged into a morass of men dressed in overalls and rubber boots. Carts loaded with massive frozen tuna corpses zipped in both directions and dead ocean life gazed up at us from piles of rapidly melting ice.

The workers sneered at us with disgust. One tossed a bucket of water in my general direction with a growl.

“Keep an eye out for the blue policemen,” my leader whispered, quickening his pace. “If they catch us, they’ll kick us out.”

Just as the last words escaped his mouth, he crashed into one. After feigning ignorance and getting directions elsewhere, he darted into another loading dock.

I broke away and was quickly intercepted.

I sheepishly followed the friendly fish market Gestappo towards the sushi warren and got in line at a Hawaiian-themed rice bowl restaurant.

My short-lived attempt at espionage ended with a delicious breakfast of Toro, salmon roe and sea urchin.

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