An unfinished bit of business from our last visit here was a trip to the Tokyo Fish Market. The Japanese LOVE fish; they eat it at every meal and are sometimes criticized for overfishing and wiping out various varieties. We're not in a position to judge, but wanted to pay the market a visit see the it in action. We could have taken a tour, but they all began before the breakfast at our hotel that we had paid big bucks for. Far be it for us to miss a meal.
So we scoured the web for info and decided to go it alone. The market is about five miles from our hotel, so this involved navigating the subway. The Japanese language has hundreds of symbols in its alphabet and it is impossible for us to remember whole words. The Shinjuku station has beau coup subway and rail lines flowing through it, so just sorting out which one we needed to take was a challenge. The station has just enough hints in English so that if you have prepared yourself well, you can figure out which of the myriad choices might get you where you want to be. The Oeno Line goes in a circle, so that made deciding which side of the platform to stand on a bit of a mystery as well. We bought our tickets from a machine hoping that we paid the correct amount. We'd read that it is bad form to talk on the subway. It was kind of eerie to ride with hundreds of people who said nothing to one another and avoided eye contact. I felt like I was on a train with zombies. These days avoiding one another is easier than ever as all the riders had plugs in their ears and their eyes on little screens, mobile or pad. We counted nine stops and listening closely for what sounded like Tsukiji-Shijo on the public address system and got off.
We had done everything right and could smell the fish as soon as we popped above ground at the subway stop. The market is located near the harbor and was built in 1935, but these days all the seafood arrives by truck. The market has various areas that are more or less accessible to tourists. The inner sanctum is the fresh fish auction area. The truly serious tourists get in line at 4am for one of the 120 spots that allow them inside to watch the giant tuna get sold. The outer sanctum opens at 9am and has many tiny businesses buying, selling and packaging fresh fish. The area around the market sells items that support the fish selling business. Rubber boots and sharp knives were for sale as well as all the accoutrements for making sushi. Long lines of people waited for the handful of seats in the sushi restaurants on site. Each could accommodate about ten customers. We've had sushi, but it's not our favorite thing to eat. Somehow paying $37 for a fish breakfast made it hard to join those lines and we had fun just wandering about and getting in the way of the hard working men getting the fish ready for sale, loading the boxes and delivering purchases.
Then we headed to the area known as skyscraper city. Tokyo is known for its tall buildings and you can pay as much as $40 to go to the top of one for the views. Instead we went up to the twin towers of Tokyo Metropolitan Office Building and saw great views for free. As I gazed upon one great skyscraper after another, I kept trying not to think about all the earthquakes that Japan is plagued by. Buildings here are planned to absorb some shaking, but it was a long, long way down.