sushi in japan. not as easy as you’d think.

leading up to japan, all danny and i could think about was endless, fresh & inexpensive sushi.
melt in your mouth nigiri and crazy roll concoctions. makes sense, right?

yeah, no.

all of our japanese sashimi dreams were squashed.
perhaps we were still in SEAsia mode where everything that’s local is cheap?
while there are plenty of sushi restaurants in japan, they aren’t cheap and don’t offer big varieties.
most restaurants are conveyer belt style made up of nigiri & sashimi sets – that’s it.
and if you’re only a sushi roll eater – you’re SOL in japan.

Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo on place we did have amazing sushi was at the tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest wholesale fish and seafood market. at 4am each morning, buyers and sellers gather for the daily auction, but even if you’re interested in the bright & early event, you’re not allowed. because of disruption, tourists are no longer granted access to the market before 9am. we’ve gotta wait until all the serious fishy business has concluded. 
tsukiji fish market tokyo
our second day in tokyo, we hopped on the metro and wandered over to the tsukiji fish market for a sushi lunch.
where to get sushi in tokyo
that’s a real, giant, fish head. and it looks happy.
where to get sushi in tokyo
sushi chef in a headband = stereotype = happy tourists
tsukiji fish market tokyo
daiwa sushi chuo tokyo
where all the selling, sorting, packaging and shipping happens.

where to get amazing sushi in tokyo
daiwa sushi chuo at tsukiji fish market

daiwa sushi chuo tokyo
thanks to the tip of a friend (hi, Lisa!) and TIME Magazine, we made our way to the popular Daiwa Sushi Restaurant just outside the fish market’s main drag. tip: if you go, be sure to have plenty of cash (cash only & no ATM nearby*), pre-map some directions and take a photo of the outside of the restaurant. this rule pretty much applies to all restaurant hunting in japan. without a photo, it’s almost impossible to identify restaurants unless you’re an expert symbol matcher. and as expected with any delicious japanese restaurant, there was a long queue.

*total side note: the dudes we met in ubud gave us a super helpful tip. in japan, ATMs aren’t readily available, and the post office is one of the primary banking institutions and is the best place to get cash (especially large sums). sure enough, we asked a few people for a cash machine and they pointed us to a post office.
tsukiji fish market tokyo
back-to-back sushi bars and barely enough room to squeeze into your seat, but it’s worth it.
daiwa sushi chuo tokyo
the english version of the seasonal menu. a set menu is approx $35USD/per person. we went al a carte ($3 – $8USD per piece) to pick our favorites + the sushi chef’s recommendation and our lunch was $60USD.
tsukiji fish market tokyo
each guest has one sushi chef attending to them. we leaned on his recommendations and ended up trying some new fish: horse mackerel, sea bream, abalone and flounder (too chewy).
tsukiji fish market tokyo
now that is a fresh piece of fatty tuna… for $8USD.
daiwa sushi chuo tokyo
exiting out the back of the muy authentico restaurant

—-

we only had sushi twice while we were in japan. what a crime!
both lunch meals were delicious, casual & spendy.
when chatting with other westerns about japan’s sushi situation (from our perspective),
our feelings were confirmed.
just because it’s local – it’s not inexpensive. you’re going to pay for top-quality sushi. period.
and yeah, japanese aren’t going to waste their tasty fish by
slathering it with cream cheese, cucumbers, sauces & rice (hello, philly roll).

1 Comment

  • Reply June 3, 2014

    Erica Newton

    Great article! I totally agree, although it’s been like 15 years since I’ve been to japan, the same thing applies.. Expensive sushi and surprisingly hard to find. Bummer they no longer open the fish markets to tourists before 9am.. That was my and my moms favorite thing to do each morning.. Wake up at 4am (we were so jet lagged it wasn’t early to us) and watch them auction the giant tuna.. Followed by a 6am sushi breakfast.
    Haha and nope, no philly rolls.. Or chicken katsu, or anything we think are super tasty cause they’re fried and so American;)

Leave a Reply