The loading zones, which are off limits, were stacked with stacks of polystyrene boxes and quick moving scooter like contraptions. Beside the inner market, we explored the outer markets. Small retail shops packed with home utensils, cutleries and kitchen items enticed buyers. In another part of the huge complex were the wholesale vegetable and fruits markets. These areas are not off limits and the locals shop here.
Apparently, there are plans for this atmospheric market to be moved. With this move, although justified as businesses grows, surge in visitor numbers and to cater the needs of everyone with safety in mind, the ambiance of a old market will certainly be lost.
On the adjacent main road, the usual traffic of cars, busses and pedestrians’ completed the picture. This is a typical working class neighbourhood almost a stone’s throw away from the shiny Ginza district.
Several restaurants in blocks opposite the market offered the freshest seafood. Unfortunately, this Sunday, long queues of over sixty had already formed in almost all the outlets. I thought they were queuing up for the bus. Each outlet had only about fifteen seats. We wandered around to see what was on offer and to seek the shortest lines. This ended up being futile.
The sun was blazing and the time past 10am. Our stomach began to grumble. The most expensive dishes are sashimi, over ¥2000 per serving. We were all tormented with aromas wafting throughout these narrow and crowded walkways. We peeped inside a few restaurants. It was frantic, in a good way. A continuous flow of people flowed through the narrow doorways under fluttering “noren”. There are several rows of pathways in these blocks of restaurants.
We ended up at a Tempura-Ya (only sold tempura). A few tables and a long bench catered for about 12 people. A lovely couple dished out hot tempuras of all sorts. Language is a challenge but fun. In the kitchen, the cook dressed in white continued to dip and fry those beautiful tempuras in an oversized wok filled with hot oil. The aroma was mouth- watering. I was salivating.
Seafood and vegetable tempuras in light batter, miso, vinigered rice, cold tofu with soy and pickled vegetables was the ideal breakfast to start the day. Heavenly flavours of sweet, sour, savoury and salty mingled on my palate. Navindd and I selfishly finished the red berry pickled fruit that was meant as an accompaniment. This was our first local experience of a typical Japanese cuisine. It was delicious and fulfilling. The small cosy setting gave us a sense of home cooking. Navindd was delighted as he loved Japanese cuisines.
“the presentation of food was impeccable and the food itself was delicious and satisfying” – Navindd
Next to the Tempura shop was a coffee shop. This was a pleasant surprise. An elderly man offered coffee to customers seated on a long bench. The coffee beans are blended here. Large tin containers were stacked on shelves. It was strong but the aroma was pleasant. The atmosphere was homely. I had 3 in 1 (ready to drink) tucked away, just in case.
A short walk from the Tsukiji market is the delightful green lung – Hama Rikyu. The garden is decorated with pruned pines, ponds and manicured lawns. This park is adjacent to the shiny buildings of Shiodome. It is nice just to wander and contemplate in an unhurried manner. Some ponds are sea water managed intricately via flood gates. There is a lovely tea house to rest and taste. From here, we caught the water boat and sailed on the Sumida River to Asakusa. This is a lovely alternative way to see Tokyo.
“…..when you look up, you can see towering bodies of shimmering silver up above and green trees below. This contrast….makes Hama Rikyu a little bit more special” – Navindd