Tuna in Tokyo
Six of us are barreling down a private road on the back of a tiny turret truck—an odd hybrid with the size and zip of a golf cart, but with a small flatbed pallet for hauling goods around a warehouse—holding on for dear life as the driver zooms around, bringing us to the inner sanctum of Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market, home to a globally renowned tuna auction each morning.
This is where the world’s finest chefs and sushi restaurants, as well as their trusted shoppers, come to stock up on the latest prized catches from the sea. A frenzied whirlwind of activity commences within, as buyers grade and inspect the stock and then bid to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars per fish.
The auction itself is highly restricted, with only a few dozen passes handed out to the public each morning, and lines forming for a chance at admission as early as 2 or 3 a.m.
It’s around 5 a.m., which means we’re late. It’s not as if we slept in. We’ve been up all night, and spent a bit too much time downing Suntory highballs and singing karaoke across town, pushing back our planned ETA to Tsukiji.
Thankfully, our marvelous guide/do-it-all-fixer Mori-san was on the case for us. She dutifully stood in line for auction passes in our stead, and managed to arrange that little truck ride over to our intended destination by having us hand a cell phone off to the first person we could find. Who knows what she said, but the guy pointed to his truck, invited us to hop on, and then drove off before we were even safely aboard, half of the crew nearly tumbling right off.
Even with Mori-san’s help, though, only one of us gets to check out the actual auction: she snagged the last remaining ticket. A thrilling round-robin rock, paper, scissors tournament is held to select who gets to see the auction. For the rest, there is only one task: to indulge in some of the world’s freshest and finest sushi at the market’s shops and stalls.
Yet, even in the morning hubbub of Tsukiji, many of the shops aren’t yet open. After some meandering around, though, we find an inviting destination and begin ordering up a breakfast feast. Amazingly fresh and sweet uni in massive mounds. Tuna so lavishly marbled with fat that it looks more like raw, high-grade wagyu beef. Salmon and shrimp and soul-warming miso soup to wash it down and send us off to bed.
Who said that breakfast needed to come after you wake up, anyway?
After just a few hours of sleep following a night of hard drinking, I wake up feeling just fine. World-class sushi from the Tsukiji market at 6 a.m.—it’s the preemptive hangover solution you never knew you needed.