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Tsukiji December 15, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tsukiji” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-tsukiji

Tsukiji is one of the most well known places in Tokyo, if not Japan.  There is only one thing to do while in Tsukiji, visit the Tsukiji Fish Market.  In reality, when you head there, you can’t really do anything else.  The area itself is very small and there isn’t much else to do but look around.  If you venture in on your own, you can expect to spend at most, one hour walking around.  It’s unlikely that you will want to spend an entire day, and unless you are a chef or restaurant owner.

The fish market itself is located fairly close to the station.  If taking the Tokyo Metro subways, the Hibiya line’s Tsukiji Station is the closest.  However, it isn’t the closest station to the market.  For that, head on the Toei Oedo line and get off at Tsukijishijo Station, which literally means, Tsukiji Fish Market Station.  From there, follow the signs and you’ll be right outside the fish market.  Finding your way in is one of the most difficult things to do.  It looks like a large mess of trucks going in and out of the market.  There is no specific passenger entrance and everything looks chaotic.  Take your chances and just walk in from any entrance.  There are various places around the market itself to take photos, but do remember that flash photography is frowned upon inside the market.  If you are looking for a guided tour, there are various people who offer tours, but by and far the best looking one is by Naoto Nakamura (link below) who takes you on a two hour tour of the fish market starting at 4am.  This is great on the first day of your trip, especially if you are jet lagged.  You’ll be able to visit the various auctions and also see many of the middlemen selling their foods. Do note that due to many tourists abusing their privileges, the market was closed at the end of 2008, till early 2009 to tourists.  While this was localized to only the auctions, it was still sad to hear about this.  It is now completely open to the public, aside from restricted areas, and you can freely watch the auctions.  See the information in the links below for more information.

As mentioned, the entire fish market feels chaotic.  You MUST be careful.  There are a lot of sites with information on what to wear and how to be prepared.  It is necessary to read them, but the basic run down is this:  wear shoes you don’t care about, and no high heels or sandals; don’t dress too stylishly; no flash photography, especially in the auction areas; and look out for any and all moving vehicles.  While the market is open to the public, everyone should be reminded that the market itself is still a place of business.

Many of the men on the dollies are racing to get the fish from one end of the market to another, or even outside the market.  If you step in front of them, they will not stop.  It’s important that you don’t block the street, and finding out where the street is can be a challenge in and of itself.  Some areas are clearly marked, but others aren’t.  Thankfully, most of the dollies and trucks are gas powered, so it’s easy to hear them, however, even in the middle men market area, the trucks can appear out of nowhere.

Inside the market, there are several shops selling sushi, sashimi, donburi, and various kitchen tools.  It can be easy to miss, but it’s nice to just walk around a little.  The shops tend to be slightly overpriced, and busy.  If you go on the weekend, there could be a long line-up.  I would recommend waiting until you leave to eat any sushi.  Just outside the north side of Tsukiji Market is a small shopping area with various sushi restaurants.  This area itself is reasonable and you can get a lot of good food that’s on par with other shops inside the market.  If you looking to buy sushi and take it home, or to your hotel for a late morning breakfast, the middlemen inside are more than happy to sell a large amount of fish to you.  Do note that the days after the holidays can be the best to get the freshest fish, and the days before the holidays can be the cheapest as they have to sell everything.  Buying fish should be done after 6am, especially if the auction is held until around 6am.  Usually, I found arriving around 8am is a good time.  You can check out all the food, although a lot has already been sold, and you can still get a good breakfast after all the regular workers have eaten and headed to work.

In the last several years, there has been talk of moving the Tsukiji Fish Market from its current location to a location closer to Odaiba.  There have been lots of vocal people protesting against this.  While it’s true that a move will likely destroy the history and atmosphere of the current Fish Market, it feels almost inevitable due to the government wanting a more controlled setting for the fish market itself.  Moving it would allow things to be modernized and flow smoothly.  Plus, the current plot of land is worth a lot more as residential and commercial buildings than as a fish market, regardless of being a tourist attraction.  I myself am indifferent, but as a tourist, I would want it to stay in the current location.  As a worker inside the fish market, I would probably want it to stay as well.  In fact, the move has been delayed indefinitely as the future site is contaminated with various toxic materials.  For those who were worried about missing this fish market in the near future, don’t worry too much.  It will be several years yet before they move.

Tsukiji Information:

Tsukiji Fish Market (Official Site – English):  http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm
Tsukiji Fish Market (Official Site – Japanese):  http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/index.html
Tsukiji Fish Market (Japan Guide):  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3021.html
Tsukiji Fish Market (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukiji_fish_market
Tsukiji Fish Market Tours (By Naoto Nakamura):  http://homepage3.nifty.com/tokyoworks/TsukijiTour/TsukijiTourEng.htm
Tsukiji (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukiji
Tsukiji (Wikitravel):  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Tsukiji

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Hakodate and Hachinohe February 24, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Tohoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Hakodate and Hachinohe” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-7D

This is Part VI of a multi-part series chronicling my motorcycle adventure from Tokyo to Sapporo and back again.

Background:  In 2007, I had finally gotten my Japanese driver’s license and a motorcycle.  I had been an avid motorcycle rider in Canada before I came to Japan, so after 2 years of no riding, I finally bought a motorcycle and decided to go on a big adventure.  I went from Tokyo to Sapporo by motorcycle and ferry. It was an adventure to say the least.

Leg 6 (Hakodate and Hachinohe)

The last day in Hokkaido and the poor weather had returned.  I had a two day journey that would take me straight back into Tokyo.  I had only one morning to get from Sapporo to Hakodate, about 270 km.  While I normally wouldn’t consider this to be tough, I originally planned to take the low roads and enjoy the vast scenery that Hokkaido has to offer.  Instead, with my bike troubles in the back of my mind, I ended up racing in the very early morning from Sapporo all the way to Hakodate along the Hokkaido Expressway.  It was very cold in the morning, but at least it wasn’t raining.  By the time I reached the 1/3 mark, it started to rain again.  In Japan, they call me an ame-otoko, or rainman.  Whenever an ame-otoko travels, it rains wherever he goes.  I certainly felt like this was true for me.  The expressway itself is much better than the Tohoku Expressway.  There is a section just past Muroran where you start to enter a narrow section of the island.  It is a very windy place and there are many windmills making the scenery very picturesque.  On my way to Chitose, I mainly took the low roads.  I felt the sea, and saw a little of it, but I never really saw everything.  The highway is located a little ways up the mountain range and every so often, you can see the entire curve of the coast.  It was very beautiful, but unfortunately, I would have preferred to have a car at that moment.  I kept dreaming of a car with a rooftop and a strong heater.

Once I reached Hakodate, I had to find my way to the station and ferry terminal.  Because of my horrible sense of direction, I almost got lost, but I figured things out.  Hakodate really isn’t a bad place.  There is a nice little hill near the city centre that has a nice lookout, and the fish market is one of the best in Japan.  Do note that almost every major coastal city in Hokkaido has a “famous” fish market.  In order to warm up from the cold rain, I decided to get a nice hot bowl of ramen.  It did a great job of warming me up and I was ready for the ferry ride back to Honshu.  If you do have the chance, Hakodate would be a great place to spend a night and enjoy a lot of sightseeing.  I’m sure there are a lot of great places to see.  While Hakodate isn’t the ideal location, there is an underground train station in the Seikan Tunnel on the Aomori side.  The Seikan Tunnel is currently the longest undersea tunnel in the world and the deepest.  There are two stations within the tunnel itself that provides emergency access.  One of the stations doubles as a museum to the building of this tunnel.  There are three tours available everyday.  However, you can only choose one.  One starts in Hakodate and ends in Aomori.  One does the reverse, and one goes from Hakodate, to the station/museum, and back again.  If you are a trainspotter, this might be a lot of fun for you.  If you have a lot of free time, this might also be fun.

Crossing back to Oma was a little different this time.  I knew the crossing, and the seas were rougher than last time.  It was raining and I spent my time drying my clothes.  I wish I was better prepared for all the rain.  The next time I take a long trip, I’ll try to prepare a lot more.  Once in Oma, the sun blocked by the clouds but it wasn’t really raining.  I only had to deal with all the mist from the cars and such.  I made a quick trip from Oma to Hachinohe, which was my final destination of the day.  The trip was cold, wet, and dark.  I had a bit of an adventure about 30km from Hachinohe.  I missed a road sign, or it didn’t exist, and I went in the wrong direction for about 7 km.  I had to turn around and find my way in the middle of nowhere.  Thankfully there was no one around to help me, whatsoever.  To say the least, I was a little scared, but I was happy that I turned around instead of getting completely lost.  It wouldn’t be the last time I got lost either.  By the time I entered the city limits of Hachinohe, I got lost again.  I ended up wandering around the city for about 1 hour before I found the main station.  I found the station and had to decide on where to sleep for the night.  I found a place in the downtown area and headed for it.  Unfortunately, the sign for the hotel was so small, I missed it three times.  I ended up going to a convenience store and asking for help.  After about 10 minutes a very nice man decided to drive ahead of me and show me the way.  I was so happy for the help.  After checking in, I had a few hours to dry my clothes and enjoy the city.

Hachinohe itself isn’t as bad as my personal experience.  It has all the amenities that you could need and everything is centrally located within the city centre.  They were also preparing for the summer festival.  I could hear taiko drums beating for a good portion of the night.  Aside from the festivals, I doubt that there is anything to really do in Hachinohe.  I’d be better off going straight through Hachinohe, but unfortunately, I needed a place to sleep unless I rode all night to Tokyo.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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