I’ve been thinking about my trip to Japan back in 2009, and I thought I’d post up an old email I sent out about Tsujiki (pronounced Ski-jee) Fish Market. Pictures are over at Bryan’s blog–check it out! (The title of this post is from an email my friend Annie sent me–I think it sums up the trip pretty well!)
What can I say about a store called Gas? One that appears to be a very
stylish clothing store in the shopping mecca of Shibuya/Harajuku? Well, I can’t say much because I was snorting and laughing too hard. Japan is an editorial heaven and hell when it comes to crazy English statements. It provides me with endless pleasure and amusement. Do they do it on purpose? Is there a secret English statement factory, where Americans, Brits, and Australians sit around writing crazier and crazier sentences to sell to unsuspecting retailers?
For instance, the wonderfully named Bagel & Bagel, which I feel compelled to remark upon every time Bryan and I pass it: “I hear that’s a good law firm.” But we haven’t tried it yet. You’re better to eat the weird Japanese things rather than the American-type things, which don’t taste as good.
In fact, my advice to all of you, don’t order anything that you think will taste like home. Like beef. I plan to have a gristle-free trip from now on, thanks.
We had an amazing meal at the big fish market (thanks for the suggestion, Suzanne!) on Thursday. Tsujiki (pronounced Ski-jee) Fish Market is crazy. We arrived at 8 am, after the auctions, when all the vendors are selling the fish they have bought. It’s completely insane.
As Bryan pointed out, they would never open it to the public at home. Too many chances to sue! It’s an enormous working fish market, with men zipping around on mini-flatbed trucks, which they drive standing up. The huge steering wheels seem to be attached to huge metal wine barrels. There are also men pulling wooden carts, men driving scooters, men riding bikes, men sawing huge frozen tuna in half with a jig saw, men slinging buckets of eels, men wearing wellies….and a few women tucked in the back of the stalls, doing book-keeping.
It’s wet and busy and crazy, and there was no time to linger to take pictures. We scuttled through, gawking and dodging puddles, and emerged gasping with exhaustion on the other side, happy that we were not crushed, cut, or run over.
It was 9.30 am. Time for sushi. There are teeny bars (that seat 15 people) in front of the market. We picked the one that had a line. I wandered off to buy an omelet kabob thingy, and when I came back, Bryan had made friends with Nakagawa-san, a retired Tokyo businessman who spoke excellent English.
He and his wife were back in town for a few days. When I asked him if he was here on business, he laughed, pointed at the restaurant and said “sushi business!” We had chosen his favorite sushi restaurant of many years, Sushi Dae, which means Big Sushi.
We then had the awkward gift experience. After standing in line for about 30 minutes and talking, we gave Nakagawa-san and his wife an omigaye, a little gift. I picked up some mints in tins decorated with Obama from work, so we had been giving people “Obama candy” as omigaye. We gave them each one, and then poor Mrs. Nakagawa had to dig around frantically in her backpack to give us something back: a satsuma, a cream pastry, a sewing kit (!), so that things would be even.
We finally all squeezed into the bar. Literally squeezed. Our bags went up on a rack, and I barely fit into the stool. It’s a good thing the woman who served us tea was tiny and could squeeze by us and the wall.
Nakagawa-san and Bryan sat next to each other and talked baseball, earning them a dirty look from one of the three sushi chefs behind the counter, who apparently was a fan of Matsui, a Japanese guy who plays for the Yankees.
And the sushi madness began.
I can’t even remember how many times the guys reached over the counter
and put a piece of sushi in front of us. I was trying not to shame myself with the chopsticks, as well as not put the chopsticks on the upper shelf (got a very gentle reproof on that). And once there was a piece of fish with some kind of gristle issue but since the Japanese don’t use napkins, I had to try to subtly spit it out and wrap it in the paper wrapper the chopsticks came in (and then hide that in my pocket!).
Apart from the gristle moment, everything else was buttery smooth and
awesome and fresh and delicious. Well, I asked for no “tako” and there
were no tentacles, but we did have live sliced clam. Slightly….chewy and reluctant to go down.
Anyway, it was incredible. Fish! Omelet! Green tea! Miso soup! The dishes kept coming, and it got hotter in the space and the sushi chefs and Bryan and Nakagawa-san were joking and laughing and I started to worry I couldn’t fit one more piece down my throat and then it was over and we were saying good-bye, and it was the best sushi ever.