I’ve been a little reluctant to start on this blogpost, as it is about our last full day in Japan and simply one of the best days… particularly for our taste buds 😛 We’ve left one of the best to-do’s on our itinerary to the very last day, a little risky because we weren’t guaranteed to do it depending on what time we woke up that day. We had a late night prior but we still managed to get up at about 4:30AM (Perks of being a wedding photographer?!).
It was so rare for us to be out so early in the morning during our trip, so we got to see what things were like before rush hour began. The morning light was so beautiful, air was fresh and quieter of course.
The rare moment when I looked up and saw not buildings but a tree, something about it caught my attention.
Tsukiji market was pretty much just straight down the road from Tsukiji station, it was probably a 10-15min walk. The moment you see these stalls, you know you’re at the right place… but finding the famous row of sushi stalls is the next challenge.
Really loved walking past all the stalls there and seeing the shop owners prepare what they’re selling that day.
and got to Tsukiji station at 5:30AM, by 6AM we had joined the queue outside Sushi Dai. We weren’t the first ones there. This is just the end of the queue, there was about 20-30 people queueing in front of the shop. And so we started the timer on how long we would be there for, we secretly wished that it was what people suggested about a 2 hour wait if you get there around 6AM… but we were wrong.
I suggest bring something light to nibble on while you wait, though you can also buy tamagoyaki from nearby shops. We tried our best to resist buying more food because we knew we’ll be stuffed silly with sushi within a few minutes.
You’ll see next to Sushi Dai there are other sushi stalls too, if you don’t want to queue you could easily head into one of them for a quick bite. There is actually two that gets mentioned a lot, one being Sushi Dai and the other Dai Wa Zushi. They say that both these shops pretty much get priority in selecting fresh fish from the markets, perhaps that suggests why its sooo amazing.
You’ll start getting excited the moment you reach the front of the second half of the line (that goes around the corner), but from there it was still about another hour wait. About 3 hours later, we made it to the queue at the front of the shop… this is when our tummies started roaring with excitement…
We’re the next ones to enter this tiny little shop! If you peek through you can tell why the queue is so slow, it pretty much can only fit about 10 people. Even when we walked in it was such a squeeze to get to our seats.
Note says that they have increased prices of their sets, the popular ‘Omakase set’ (meaning, ‘Leave it to you!’) is now 4000¥ (approx AU$40)
Finally get to seat down after 3.5hrs! We tried to take as much photos as we can, though we had to be considerate of the poor people outside who are still waiting their turn. Though you would be tempted to take your time and savour each piece of sushi that gets served up in front of you.
The chefs were oh so friendly! I had thought that there wouldn’t be much socialising in there but it turns out that these chefs had a decent english vocab, I guess why wouldn’t they if they see hundreds of tourists come through each day. They would ask you where you are from, you reply Australia… and it was so predictable that the next thing they say would be…. KOALA??
You would think that you know how to eat sushi, as in you’re supposed to dunk it into soy sauce with wasabi mixed in. No. I learnt that not all sushis are eaten like that (in fact you’re probably not meant to have wasabi in the soy sauce to begin with!). Some you would dip into soy sauce (they would already have a pinch of wasabi in the sushi), others were enjoyed as it is.. so you can taste the freshness of the fish.
Ready for sushi spam?! I will try my best to name each other 10 or so sushis we ate. What they serve up is really up to them and depends on what is left over.
Piece of tamagoyaki to start
First up was Fatty tuna! aka Otoro! My only complaint is, why they serve the best first? Because… what we were about to eat just gets better…
Flounder. Quite refreshing to the taste buds without soysauce.
Sea Urchin & Horse Mackerel
I was a little reluctant to try the sea urchin, because the flavour I was familiar with is rather *yuck* to me, but after swallowing this piece… it was far from yuck! Now why the sea urchin in Sydney so yuck?! (referring to those served at sushi trains). The Horse mackerel LOOKS disgusting (I imagined an open wound..) but it was pretty nice also!
Surf Clam. This was still sort of alive, you could see it wriggling a little bit. Felt nothing in my mouth besides deliciousness.
Blue fin tuna.. look at the colour!
4 tuna & cod rolls just to fill you up. (Complimentary)
You get 11 pieces of sushi, the 11th piece you can choose from what is available or another piece of what you had. Not everything on the list is always available. I got the flounder again because I quite like the refreshing taste (even though at the back of my mind I should’ve gotten fatty tuna!)
Our overall verdict on the place? Yes the queue is insane, once you have past 2 hours it would be silly to give up so you just keep queueing. We were only in there for no more than 15mins. At least we didn’t leave the shop feeling like, we waisted our time queuing just for ordinary sushi, because it wasn’t! Would we do it again? Probably not, we’ve done it once.. next time we’ll try the other places maybe. I guess it was just unlucky that its peak season in Japan so there is more tourist than usual hence the long queues. I heard that if you get there about 4:30-5AM, you barely have to wait and you’ll be in and out within an hour of them opening (I think at 5:30). One of the highlights of our trip for sure! #bestsushiintheworld
We were so tired from waking up early and queueing and eating, we went back to the hotel for a loooong nap until we felt like we’ve rested up enough to do some last minute shopping.
For dinner, we couldn’t decide. So we thought about what we ate and what we haven’t ate. We wanted to try different foods in Japan and not always be eating ramen (ah carbs!)… so since it was still freezing cold and it also rained a bit that day… the best thing would be Shabu Shabu! aka Japanese Hot Pot. From my google search I stumbled upon this place called Kisoji in Ginza located near Kinnokuniya and the big Uniqlo building (which we got lost in afterwards).
The waitreses all dressed in kimonos would help you get the pot going, carefully putting each thing into the boiling hot water. They would check back every now and then to add the next thing e.g. noodles.
Last of all.. a perfect scoop of Green Tea ice cream. That was it, our last proper meal in Japan.
It doesn’t look like much but we were really full after it all, only complaint is… I wish there was more beeeef! The shabu shabu experience was so nice, I wish we had gotten to try it more though it really isn’t cheap! (or we just went to an expensive one). Definitely recommend this restaurant if you’re ever there during the colder months!
Nearby attractions to the restaurant:
It was getting late, we had better make our way back to the hotel to try pack our suitcases… but we wanted to make one last stop… hoping that it was still open..
The Pokemon Centre, Tokyo branch in Hamamatsucho! We went to the one in the Umeda building in Osaka but didn’t find what we were after. We were actually on the look out for Pokemon nanoblock sets… annoyingly this branch was closed by the time we got there 🙁
And that is a wrap to our 11 day Japan trip. Missing it like crazy especially now that its winter in Sydney.. and just wishing for hot bowls of Ramen.. and shabu shabu! Can’t wait to go back again, people are so friendly there (well not so much when it comes to getting on the train during peak hour -.-). We got used to traveling around easily without having to use a single word of Japanese, phew. I think our next trip, we won’t have to go to tourist hotspots as much, probably go visit the country side etc.
I have other trips to post about e.g. our short stop over in Singapore following this Japan trip, perhaps my trip to Vanuatu over Christmas too.. I’ll see!
Thanks for reading along! 🙂
Now… to decide on our next escape together :)…