By Maya Tanaka — May 15, 2015 —
The Tsukiji Fish Market is a famous tourist destination in Tokyo. Most people go there for the fish auction that is held every day at around 5 a.m.
What most tourists don’t know is that you can get some of the best sushi in Tokyo by skipping the auction and instead getting in line to eat at a sushi bar near the market.
Last summer I went to one of the most popular and oldest of these sushi bars, Daiwa Sushi. Two friends of mine were visiting from the U.S., and it turned out to be one of the best experiences we had in Tokyo. We got to Tsukiji around 4 a.m., checked out the market for half an hour, and then waited in line for Daiwa Sushi at around 4:30. The restaurant opened at 5 o’clock, and we were seated by 5:30.
An hour wait seems long, right? But it’s not –– if you wait in line for the most popular restaurant in the Tsukiji Market, Sushi Dai, you’ll be waiting 3 to 4 hours on average. Daiwa Sushi is the second most popular place, and you can enter in less than half the time. This is where to eat the best sushi in Tokyo.
After being seated, we ordered the combination plate, which included miso soup and approximately 10 pieces of sushi. With a combination plate, typically you receive all the sushi at once. But at Daiwa we received a wooden plate with nothing on it. Then the sushi chef made each piece of sushi and put it on our plates one at a time. First came the oo-toro (very fatty tuna), and then chu-toro (fatty tuna). Chu-toro is my favorite sushi, and this was by far the best chu-toro that I have eaten in my life. We ate each piece on our plates and then eagerly waited for the next one, until we received all ten. It was delicious!
Our Tsukiji outing was especially enjoyable thanks to our amazing sushi chef. He was an old man who had learned how to make sushi at a young age. He didn’t talk very much, but smiled and made each piece of sushi with great care. Watching him make all 10 pieces of sushi from the other side of the bar was a great pleasure. It also gave us a sense of how important sushi is to the Japanese culture, and of the Tsukiji Fish Market’s rich history.
The total price was 4,000 yen, or about $35. To some of you this might seem expensive, but the sushi at these bars in Tsukiji comes from fish that has just been auctioned at the market — it is the freshest sushi in Tokyo. If you were to eat the same sushi in the center of town at night, you could expect to pay over $100.
You can tell that this is one of the best food deals you will ever get because there are a mix of locals and tourists eating there. The locals know that this is the place to go for fresh sushi at an affordable price, and they will wake up at 3 a.m. in the morning to eat there. Many of the tourists who know about it will go to Tsukiji at the end of a fun night out, which is what we did.
Overall, we had a fantastic sushi experience, and so did Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart when they went a few weeks after our visit. According to the UK’s Daily Mail, the star duo were in Japan filming the sci-fi drama Equals. At Daiwa, they were served by the same chef that served us!