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Japan 2010: Day 04 part 1

November 21, 2010

in Japan,Travel

11/05/2010 (Fri) Tsukiji fish market -> Ghibli museum -> Nakano broadway -> Asakusa

Yes! we went to Ghibli museum again! We did a lot this day, each post is getting very long, so I’m splitting up the post for this day in two!

Tsukiji fish market is where all the good fish come from in Japan. They have the famous tuna auction where they auction hundreds of huge frozen tuna.

TIPS & NOTES:
With so many tourists coming to see the tuna auction from all over the world, they have new strict rules now. Only the first 140 people get to see the auction starting from 4:30 AM, and only 70 people get to see the second auction starting from 5:40. Remember, the trains don’t run 24 hours a day in Japan. Usually the first train of the day is no earlier than 4:00 AM. So depending on where you’re staying, you might not even get to Tsukiji for the tuna auction. Even once you get there, the place is so busy you might want to check out the map and read the rules ahead of time. But that shouldn’t stop you from visiting the paradise for seafood lovers. For more info, check out the Tsukiji Fish Market guide in JapanGuide.com site. (I found their site is far more helpful than Tsukiji’s official website.) Also make sure you have a map of the Tsukiji market with you. They have a map by the station but every corner looks alike, and you can easily get lost in there and a map will help you when you want to ask people for directions.

Day 04

There is a map in front of the tsukiji station (Shinjuku ikebukuro line) but it's safe to have it on your own.

We were going there with my friend whom I went to school (S.V.A) with in New York. But because we went out the night before and with all the new rules, we decided to save the tuna auction for the next time.

Tsukiji fish market was very energetic to say the least. The place is like a maze and they gave turret trucks (the hybrid of segway/electronic motor car things) driving all over the place. It’s cool to see them zipping all over the place through the market with the freshest fish in Japan, but the place is still a fish market and definitely not designed for tourists (which is fine with me.) It was my second time there, but I still got nervous when I was there.

Day 04

Turret trucks at the Tsukiji market

Day 04

This thing can go really fast.

Day 04

Look at this loooong knife!

Day 04

Frozen tuna

Day 04

Squids!

Day 04

The salmon roe on the right looks sooooo good.

Day 04

It's like a scene from "Hostel," in the fish world.

There are so many sushi place at the fish market, so I asked my brother for a good place to eat and he recommended Sushi Dai. Sushi Dai is very popular and if you Google it you can find many people including foreigners & Japanese people praising the place. I’m usually very skeptical about a restaurant that gets so much praise. Last time I went to Tsukiji, I went to a place called Daiwa Sushi (no relation to Sushi Dai) which was couple doors down from Sushi Dai, so I wanted to try a new place this time.

Day 04

When we got there, there were already more than a dozen of people waiting in the line, and the line didn't seem like it was moving at all.

Long story short, we got in the line at 6:45 AM and got inside around 8:45 AM.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo
We ate: Omakase (chef’s pick) sushi (3900 yen)

Day 04

Old fashioned Japanese signs are read from left to right.

While we were in line, a kind waitress asked us what we’d like. You can order piece by piece but also there were two sushi courses. Regular sushi course and omakase course (chef’s pick). Regular sushi was 2500 yen for 7 pieces of sushi, rolls, a piece of Japanese style omelet, and miso soup. Omakase sushi was 3900 yen for 11 pieces of sushi, rolls, a piece of Japanese style omelet, miso soup.

Day 04

The memu changes depending on when you go.

We were hungry after waiting in line for 2 hours so we all ordered Omakase course for 3900 yen. (besides, I wouldn’t know which sushi to pick) The waitress told my friend and I that the sushi chefs would ask us if we were full before serving the rolls (because we were girls), and if we were, they’d give us a piece of sushi instead of rolls. We thought it was very thoughtful.

Day 04

View from the ouside Sushi Dai. We're almost there!

With that kind of price, some might think you’re getting ripped off because the place is famous and is right in Tsukiji market. We kind of thought of it too, but we wanted to try it before we make any judgments about the place. We didn’t know that we were in for a HUGE surprise.

We were seated after two hours of waiting. I’d say there were about 14 seats inside all around the counter. There were three sushi chefs and the chef in front of us asked us where we came from. I said New York. Then he apologized for making us spend our precious time (since we’re tourists) waiting in the line. We were still a little skeptical at that point, so we said something like “It’s okay. We heard this place was good” and waited for our food.

Day 04

Botan ebi right in front of me! Such a tease.

Day 04

Fish parts were used for the yummy stock on the miso soup.

First he put sliced ginger to the right side of each of us on the raised counter. (they don’t use plates there)
We were hungry, so we started munching on the ginger, and making a chitchat with the chef. Then he casually & quickly took the ginger that was in front of my friend, and placed it on her left, saying “I apologize. I didn’t realize you’re left-handed.” My friend who’s left-handed was so moved, saying that no one has ever done that for her. He smiled and brushed it off saying “Everyone (who’s in the food service industry) should notice it.”

Day 04

Has any chef ever cared whether you were right handed or left handed at a restaurant?

I won’t lie. I’m definitely not a sushi expert. My tongue isn’t trained to detect the subtle differences in fish, but even I could taste the difference. It’s not that we had new kinds of sushi either. I’ve had the same fish before at a restaurant but every piece of sushi tasted COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from what I’m used to. I’m not exaggerating. Each piece was so fresh it MELTED in my mouth. Each sushi piece was like a punch in my face. (in the most awesome way) Without further ado, I’ll give you the photos of Omakase sushi!

Day 04

1st piece: Oh-toro (super fatty tuna), YES, the very first piece was Oh-toro!! It melted like butter in my mouth.

Day 04

2nd piece: Hirame (fluke? flounder? oh forget it, it's Hirame!), This also melted in my mouth.

Day 04

3rd piece: Kinmedai (golden eye red snapper), It was unbelievably soft and melty.

Day 04

4th piece: Hokke-gai from Hokkaido, It was alive and moving when it was served! We should've taken a video of it.) This softest clam I've ever had. And yes, it melted.

Day 04

5th piece: Aji (horse mackerel), It looked too gourgeous to eat and guess what, it melted in my mouth!

Day 04

6th piece: Uni (sea urchin) from Hokkaido, I truly think this was the BEST uni in the world. It was nothing like any other uni I've ever had. It was so good I didn't want to swallow it. I almost melted!

Day 04

Dashimaki tamago (Japanese style omelette), It was pretty big and very juicy inisde.

Day 04

7th piece: Ikura (salmon roe), Each roe exploaded with melty juice inside my mouth.

Day 04

8th piece: Sawara (Spanish mackerel), How would I have known that sawara could melt?

Day 04

9th piece: Maguro (tuna), It looked too good to be real.. but it indeed was real and melted in my mouth.

Day 04

10th piece: Rolls with maguro nakaochi (chopped tuna) & Hokke-gai no himo (strings of surf clam) w/ shiso leaves, I told him that I didn't like cucumber so he used shiso leaves instead. Never had "hokke-gai no himo" but it was sooooooo good.

Day 04

10th piece: rolls with maguro nakaochi (chopped tuna) & Hokke-gai no himo (strings of surf clam) w/ cucumber

Day 04

11th piece: Anago (salt water eel), I couldn't believe this was the same anago I usually don't care for in my sushi. Why? Because this one melted in my mouth!

Day 04

12th piece / whatever you want!: I ordered "Botan shrimp", It was so succulent and sweet I had a foodgasm.

Day 04

12th piece / whatever you want!: Derek ordered "salmon," There's no fat because it's wild salmon. But he said it was so unbelievably melty.

Day 04

12th piece / whatever you want!: My friend ordered "squid", I didn't ask her what it tasted like but I'm sure it was good and melty. It was very translucent. It's raw, of course.

Even while we were eating or waiting for the next piece, the chefs were very friendly, asking us about New York, what sushi was like in New York, etc… They seemed like they genuinely love talking to customers and seeing people get excited with the delicious sushi. Even with two dozen people waiting outside, they never rushed us. They explained every little thing we asked them about the fish and the place. Their service reminded me of the cafe at the Ghibli museum. Their main purpose wasn’t to make money, but to serve quality food, pay attention to the customer, and the most important thing was for the customer to enjoy the food and the time at the place. I’ve been to Nobu, the fancy Japanese restaurant own by Robert De Niro and their food sure was great, but the place was huge and noisy. And the waiter (which was far better than any regular restaurants) at Nobu was nowhere near as personal or friendly like the chefs at Sushi Dai.

Day 04

He was our main sushi chef. Very friendly and professional.

Day 04

He was also serving us. Funny and nice gentleman.

Day 04

He seemed shy and we didn't get to talk to him much but he was also very friendly.

The visit to Sushi Dai was an amazing experience for us. The food and the attitude of the chefs made the long wait so worth it. We enjoyed their fish and their company so much that we couldn’t stop talking about the place to everyone. Derek and I knew that this place was going to be the “place we’ll always go when we go to Japan” from that day on. If you ever go to Tsukiji fish market, you should make the time in the morning definitely visit Sushi Dai. You won’t regret it.

I’m sure Derek will do much better reviews on his blog about Day 04! Also you should definitely check out the posts about our trip to Japan on Derek’s Nerdblog! -> Day 0-1, Day 2, Day 3

Continued to day 4 part 2…

We have over 4000 photos from this trip and there’s no way I can post them all on my blog. So I’m uploading photos from our trip to flickr as I write a post for each day. If you’d like to check out random photos from Japan or us goofing around in Japan, check out my flickr collection by clicking the link below!

Japan 2010: the most awesome trip ever!

** The comments have been very buggy on wordpress, and sometimes it won’t let you leave a comment. If that happens, please email me at annathered[at]gmail.com! **

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

kathy McCNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Just wanted to tell you that I have enjoyed looking through the photos from your trip. Very jealous. That sushi looks fantastic. Congrats on your engagement!

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AthenaNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Haha–the melty sushi attack! That seems amazing though. Even the pictures don’t look like sushi I’m used to seeing, though I got spoiled living in So Cal in a place with a high density of Japanese immigrants. Now that I’m in the Northwest, I’ve had to accept a change in quality in sushi as much as Mexican food. But, these pictures alone makes me want AWESOME SUSHI. *drools*

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ecalo(shay)No Gravatar November 24, 2010 at 1:55 am

Hi!

Apparently it’s one of marks of a good sushi chef to take note of details about the customer such as which hand they use. It affects the presentation of the sushi as well because it’ll be angled at a position that makes it easy for the customer to pick up (which is also important if the morsels need to be eaten in a specific order/direction).

I don’t know the exact details but it’s one of the awesome subtleties of the art of being a sushi chef that I have heard about.

Something like that anyway. :)

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FaithNo Gravatar November 25, 2010 at 2:45 am

OMGoodness! I am so envious. Hahaha. That is the reddest and freshest maguro I’ve ever seen!

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kiwiNo Gravatar November 25, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Wow that food looks incredible, but I find it astonishing that they were serving it. Isn’t the Bluefin Tuna a critically endangered species?

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AnnaTheRedNo Gravatar November 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm

The sushi we had at Sushi Dai was truly a work of art. I even felt like it shouldn’t be called “sushi” because the “sushi” I’m used to is completely different from what I ate there. :) “““ Oops sorry for drooling.

ecalo(shay), your explanation makes perfect sense. I’ve never felt so “appreciated” by chefs in my life! And they’re so modest too. Their service made me want to meet them again.

kiwi, Bluefin Tuna is not endangered yet but severely over fished.

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abigailNo Gravatar December 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Wow! Wow! Wow! This is like my DREAM trip!!! I have been obsessed with Japan since forever and have always dreamed of going! And reading about your trip is wonderful. I want to do the exact same trip as you! Some day… Someday.. I will get to go. :)

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AnnaTheRedNo Gravatar December 9, 2010 at 9:29 pm

abigail
Hope you’ll go to Japan someday! I’ll write a post about how much we spent on this trip and the websites that might help travelers find cheap places to stay after I write posts for all my Japan trip. So make sure to check back later!

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Fuchsia MorphoNo Gravatar December 12, 2010 at 10:56 am

Hi,

What a wonderful blog and the pictures are great! It has heightened my desire to visit Japan in 2011. Can you give a ballpark figure of the cost of the trip from start to finish?

Thanks,

Fuchsia Morpho

Reply

AnnaTheRedNo Gravatar December 18, 2010 at 1:33 am

Fuchsia Morpho
I’m glad to hear that you liked my trip blog posts! Very soon I’m going to write a post about the tips I learned from my trip and how much it cost. You can ask me any questions you have on that post!

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