Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

Toyosu Fish Market has modern, sophisticated look

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

As aging Tsukiji Market wrapped up its 83 years of history, Tokyo’s new wholesale fish market opened on the artificial island of Toyosu in October. The 100-acre market, nearly twice as large as Tsukiji, accommodates over 600 wholesalers providing vast amounts of seafood and vegetables.

Like Tsukiji, which was a very popular tourist destination, everyone is allowed access to Toyosu. So, my wife and I recently visited for the first time.

When we got off the bus at the Toyosu Shijo stop, we were greeted by four ultra-modern buildings. The gigantic structures looked like a sophisticated IT laboratory, rather than a traditional lively and messy market.

Two of the buildings are for seafood, one houses fruits and vegetables, while the last one is an administrative building. Raised walkways connect the buildings to each other as well as to the Toyosu-Shijo Station of the monorail line.

Despite the large amount of space, well-arranged signboards and maps in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean kept us from getting lost.

We started out by dropping by the administrative building to get some general information and a plan for our tour. Posters and signs in the building were full of market history as well as the details of the new setup. There were even staffers there to answer any questions.

Our first stop was the Fish Wholesale Market building. The building is already well-known as a single 612-pound bluefin tuna was auctioned there for the astonishing price of 333,600,000 yen ($3 million USD) earlier this year.

Don’t miss the replica of the largest bluefin tuna ever sold at Tsukiji market, which weighed in at over 1,100 pounds.

A corridor to the observation deck has double-glazed windows, which lets you look down at the action on the floor. However, it was nearly 10 a.m. and all auctions had already been completed, so all we found was an empty green and gray floor. According to a sign, green is exclusively applied to the tuna auction area, as the color helps the red of the fish meat stand out to buyers.
 
If you want to observe an active tuna auction in the morning, you need to make a reservation through the market’s website. But, if you arrive between 5 and 6 a.m., you most likely can enter the observation deck even without reservation, a market staffer said.

In the Fish Intermediate Wholesale Market building, we were able to get in an authentic turret truck, which are displayed in the corridor for a photo opportunity. Panels on the wall show the seasonal fish being caught in the Tokyo Gulf.

Don’t miss the fourth floor of the building which houses more than 70 shops. Called “Uogashi Yokocho,” shops on the floor sell non-perishable products, such as sake, bonito flakes, kitchen utensils and tea, along with some traditional Tokyo-style foods, such as tamagoyaki (soy-flavored omelet) and various pickles. Vendors let us sample several complimentary bonito flakes to compare the flavors.

We were getting hungry, so we purchased a traditional Tokyo-style Edomae omelet for 300 yen. The rolled omelet had decent flavor and a rich taste. Although it is known as a traditional food of Tokyo, it tasted like a high-end French dish to me.

Among 37 restaurants, cafes and eateries available in the entire Toyosu Market, the food court in this this building features 22 restaurant options.

Besides a lot of sushi shops packed in the space, there are cafés, tonkatsu joints, curry and beef bowl shops. Here you will likely find something for everyone to enjoy.

Despite the pricey sushi lunch sets ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 yen ($18-40), there were plenty of people waiting in line at the sushi joints.

After walking around the packed food court, we settled on Odayasu (see side bar), as there wasn’t much of a wait. Their tonkatsu lunch sets were tasty and reasonable (around $7-15). The confined tables enabled us to chat with other tourists. The three middle-aged women sitting at our table told us that they came from Ibaraki Prefecture, about 100 miles north, to take a close look at the newly opened market.

After enjoying lunch, we went up to the rooftop garden.

The garden, filled with grass and bushes, gives you a majestic panoramic view over the busy waterfront of the Tokyo Gulf. We saw ships and boats sailing in and out at the Harumi Wharf against the backdrop of skyscrapers, Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. We returned a few hours later to enjoy the night view with all the lights.

We ended our visit at the Fruit and Vegetable Market building. Just like other market buildings, the observation deck gave us view of the action.

Visitors usually aren’t allowed on auction floors, but if you plan to buy some fish or produce, the guards or staff will grant you access. Remember, the auctions at the fish and vegetable markets are conducted between 5 and 6 a.m. and most of the wholesale shops close by 8 a.m. So, if you want to buy something at the market, get there no later than 6 a.m.

Although market functions have relocated from Tsukiji to Toyosu, the outer street of Tsukiji Market is still busy and active with shops and eateries. Visiting both markets in one day is fairly easy as they are only a short two miles apart.

The Toyosu Fish Market tour lasted about three hours, but we walked away with enough information to feel like we visited a museum. It’s a unique experience to get a small glimpse into one of the world’s most advanced and largest wholesale seafood markets.

Toyosu Market

Location: 6-6-1 Toyosu, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Hours: Mon. - Sat, 5 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Closed Sun., some Wednesdays, holidays. Check website for closures.)
Admission: Free
URL: www.toyosu-market.or.jp/
Tel: 03-3520-8205

takiguchi.takahiro@stripes.com

With 84-year history, restaurant in new Tokyo fish market continues tonkatsu tradition

The new Toyosu Fish Market, with its food court packed renowned eateries, is a gourmand’s paradise. Here you can find a wide-range of tasty dishes made with fresh fish and vegetables unloaded at the market earlier that day.

If you are sushi or sashimi lover, Sushidai and Yamatozushi are big names among the 37 options, as they offer the nation’s top-notch sushi dishes with quality tuna and other fish in season. They are popular, too, so expect long lines outside for entry into either one.

If you don’t care for raw fish or you’re visiting the market with young children, no need to worry, other restaurants inside the market have plenty of non-fish options.

Head to the third floor of the wholesale market building for tonkatsu, or breaded pork cutlet, at Odayasu. This is the second location for this restaurant, as the original has been open outside of the old Tsukiji Market since 1935.

After a short five-minute wait to enter, we were led into a small casual dining area that could easily seat about 20 guests. The beer posters hanging on the walls and other décor made it feel like we were in a typical izakaya pub. In fact, the menu offers many alcoholic drinks, and other patrons during our visit seemed to be enjoying their tonkatsu paired with a mug of beer.

My wife ordered lunch set of “hirekatsu,” which is a pork fillet cutlet, for 1,200 yen ($10), while I ordered sautéed oysters with tartar sauce for 1,650 yen ($13).

Due to the proximity of our tables, we were able to chat up some of the neighboring customers as we waited for our food. Most of them were tourists there to visit the market.

Within 10 minutes of placing our order, my plate, topped with five large oysters, shredded cabbage, a slice of lemon, a side of miso soup and rice, arrived.

One bite and the rich, fresh flavor of the oyster and butter really impressed me. I sampled the dish with lemon juice at first, then added tartar sauce and soy sauce to see which combination was best. For me, the soy sauce complimented the sautéed oyster nicely.

The beautifully deep-fried cutlet my wife ordered came wrapped in golden breadcrumbs and was crispy and tender enough to cut with our chopsticks. The soy sauce provided also paired better with the tonkatsu than the Worcestershire usually served with the dish.

Considering its 84-year history, Odayasu’s reasonably-priced menu makes it easy to see why it continues to serve up tasty tonkatsu in Tsukiji, and now inside Toyosu’s new market. Plus, the short wait in an otherwise busy food court made it an easy choice for my wife and me.

Odayasu

Hours: Mon. –Sat., 5:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Closed Sun. & holidays)
Location: Fish Wholesale Market Building [3F], 6-5-1 Toyosu, Koto-Ku, Tokyo
URL: Odayasu.net
Tel: 03-6633-0182 (Japanese only)

takiguchi.takahiro@stripes.com

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