Tokyo/Chuo

Chuo (中央; ) is a central ward in Tokyo.

Understand

While the name literally means "Center", this ward loses out in prestige (if only very slightly) to neighboring Chiyoda, home to the Emperor among others. Still, Ginza is generally reckoned to have the most expensive real estate on earth and there are plenty of bright lights. Chuo ward is also home to the world’s largest fish market (by a very large margin), Tsukiji, which processes an unparalleled volume and variety of seafood, in addition to vegetables and other products.

Get in

The western edge of Chuo starts on the Yaesu (east) side of Tokyo Station, and if your legs are feeling up to it, you can get pretty much anywhere worth seeing within a 45-minute walk. Otherwise, take the subway.

See

Rows of tuna lined up at Tsukiji Fish Market

Hibiya line Tsukiji station is a short walk away, while O-Edo line Tsukiji-shijo drops you right next to the action. While the market stays open until 1PM, the action drops off after 8AM and many shops close after 10AM or so. Note that the wholesale market inside Tsukiji is off-limits to visitors until after 9 AM, although visitors are welcome to visit the outside market when it opens from 5 AM. Free.

To visit the morning tuna auctions, it is important to get to Tsukiji as early as possible, as there is a daily maximum of 120 visitors allowed into the tuna auction whenever it is held. Viewing tickets are issued on a first come, first serve basis beginning at 4:30 AM at the market's Fish Information Center, located next to the Kachidoki entrance. The first 60 ticket holders are able to view the auction from 5:25 AM until 5:50 AM, while the other 60 ticket holders can view the remainder of the auction from 5:50 AM until 6:15 AM. Visitors must adhere to strict rules when viewing the auction, including no flash photography, no touching the fish, and no actions that would otherwise interfere with any auction-related activities. Note that the tuna auction may still be off-limits during busy times of the year.

A few tour companies do advertise tours that include visits to the tuna auction, but with the disclaimer that it may not be possible to see it if it gets too crowded.

Tsukiji is scheduled to close permanently on November 2, 2016, after which a new, expanded fish market will open in Toyosu.

Do

Buy

The Ginza, covered in its own article, is one of the world's most famous (and most expensive) shopping districts.

Eat

Budget

Monjayaki before cooking...
...and after. (Yes, it's supposed to look like that.)

Past Tsukiji on Harumi-dori is the island neighborhood of Tsukishima (月島, "Moon Island"), known mainly for its many restaurants serving monja-yaki (もんじゃ妬き). This dish is popular in Eastern Japan (Kantō) and is available throughout Tokyo, but is a particular specialty of Tsukishima. Monja-yaki is like the okonomiyaki of Western Japan (Kansai), but the dough is much more runny and the ingredients are finely chopped, leading to what looks like a puddle of vomit. Just remember the essentials: you form the shredded cabbage into a ring on the griddle and pour the leftover liquid in the middle, and you use the tiny spatulas to press the mixed batter onto the griddle until it sizzles, then eat it right off the spatula. (Most shop staff will be more than happy to assist.) Sounds strange, doesn't it? It is. To get here, take the Yurakucho/O-Edo Line to Tsukishima station, and you'll find "Monja Town" aka Nishinaka-dori (西仲道り) extending out from near exit 7, with no less than 70 restaurants crammed into a couple of city blocks.

The northern section of Tsukishima is named Tsukudajima (佃島), and is the origin of tsukudani (佃煮), a way of preserving food by simmering it in a sticky soy and sugar sauce. Tsukudani is still available throughout Japan, but is less common than before, having fallen out of style in most of Japan; it is still commonly available here. Seafood, seaweed (konbu) and various vegetables are the most common ingredients, but if you're looking for something more interesting, try inago (いなご) tsukudani, made from locusts!

Mid-range

Daiwa Sushi, Tsukiji

Try a sushi breakfast at Tsukiji, primarily for the experience. The fish is guaranteed to be as fresh as possible and the prices, while not cheap, are reasonable given the high quality – figure on ¥2000–¥4000 for an omakase set of whatever is good today, more if you order drinks or extra pieces. Prices are comparable to a mid-range sushi lunch, while quality is somewhat higher, and are significantly cheaper than a sushi dinner in Ginza, which can easily cost over ¥10,000.

Also consider the omelette rolls (dashimaki tamago) available throughout the market. This is another Tsukiji speciality, and egg sushi (tamago nigiri-zushi) is traditionally served alongside seafood sushi.

The most famous are two small sushi restaurants in the inner market, Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi, both located around Building 6 in Uogashi yokochō (“Fishmarket alley”), which runs east-west along the backs of a number of market buildings. There are three entrances to the inner market: the main gate (at north), the Ichibabashi (“Market bridge”) gate (at northeast, next to a gas station), both on the main street, and Kaikōbashi (“Fruit of the sea bridge”) gate (at east): English Map, Simple Japanese map, Official Japanese map. Easiest is the main gate, which has various tourist information and signs, and a pedestrian path (going straight, then bearing left) directly to the alley.

Both restaurants have become very popular with tourists in recent years – though locals do still go – so be prepared to queue, particularly on weekends, even if you arrive at 6 am; also be aware that smaller groups may be served before larger ones. An hour's wait is typical, though the line for Sushi Dai often exceeds three hours (and is largely exposed to elements and the morning sun), while the line for Daiwa Sushi generally moves faster, and it is sometimes possible to be seated with little or no wait. Due to the wait, it is preferable to go in warmer weather, meaning not mid-winter. Sushi Dai is generally considered the better of the two, and is a bit more expensive, but the most significant difference is the wait. Fans of clubbing avoid the queues by staying out all night, especially in Roppongi, and going to Tsukiji in the early morning after the clubs close.

There are far more sushi places in the outer market, without the long waits and with the same sushi, though without the inner market atmosphere. These generally open at 8 or 9 am. Some of these are businesses of long-standing, dating to the 19th century and now consisting of large chains, though the main shops are still in Tsukiji.

There are also non-sushi options, most notably omelette rolls (dashimaki tamago) available throughout the market. In the inner market there are numerous restaurants, mostly standard Japanese fare serving market traders, located in Buildings 1, 6, and 8, and a handful of others – see list (in Japanese, but with building numbers, hours, and pictures). Ryū sushi in Building 1 is noted for featuring a variety of seasonal seafood.

Splurge

There are a wide variety of expensive and extremely expensive restaurants in Ginza; see Tokyo/Ginza#Eat.

Drink

The Ginza has a large array of drinking establishments, most of which are also extremely expensive. This is where the Japanese horror stories of $100 for a beer originate from. Choose carefully, or head elsewhere.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, October 19, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.