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Travel Memory: A 3 Hour Wait for Sushi at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market

We have a bit of a love affair with sushi. Rich, light and satisfying, it’s like the perfect paramour. You can never get enough. πŸ˜‰

Growing up in Canada, we were spoiled with slightly adapted, but still amazingly delicious and affordable versions of this Japanese delight. Admittedly, I’ve never found a spicy tuna or dynamite roll anywhere in Tokyo (do they even exist?), but I still crave them to this day, authentic or not.

The highlight of our 2 day visit to Sao Paulo was not the Brazilian Churrasco, but the all you can eat sushi rodizio we had in the city’s Liberdade district. Granted, it wasn’t the best quality, but hey, we were desperate at the time.

No, for the best sushi in the world (without selling your first born child), a visit to the largest, busiest fish market in the world is in order. At Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, a sushi breakfast at one of the restaurants in the wholesale area is a rite of passage for early morning visitors. And the most coveted seats of all are at humble little Sushi-Dai.

With just 12 counter places available, waits can be long. When hungry and dreaming of sushi, it can feel like an eternity.

Over the course of 3 hours, we slowly inched from the tail end of the line – to the middle – to the front – to the holding pen in front of the restaurant – and finally inside, our stomachs grumbling progressively louder with every minute.

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Once we were seated however, the sushi chef carefully selected piece after piece of the freshest fish of the day, and placed it directly on the counter in front of us. The torturous wait was forgotten, as the exquisite flavours of fatty tuna, mackerel and surf clam washed over our tastebuds. The sushi was so mouthwatering, that it scarcely touched the counter in front of me, before it was swept up and devoured.

Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market
When we visited back in 2010, we were able to wander freely through the Market at any time of the day, but since then, strict regulations have been put in place for tourists. In order to prevent accidents and interference with business, visitors are no longer allowed to enter the wholesale market area before 9:00AM, and some areas of the Market are completely off limits.

The exciting tuna auction that’s on most traveller’s must-do lists (not ours, too early!), is now limited to 120 viewers per day, on a first-come, first-serve basis, beginning at 5:00AM.

Detailed information about visiting both the tuna auction and the Tsukiji Fish Market in general can be found on the Japan Guide.

Have you ever lined up for an amazing meal? Where was it, and was it worth it? We’d love to hear from you!

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. it’s worth every second of the wait. Best sushi ever

    October 15, 2014
    • So fresh! Literally tastes like it’s straight from the ocean and onto the counter. Not 100% sure if I’d do it again, but I’m glad we did it once. πŸ™‚

      October 16, 2014
  2. Hmmm, three hours, not for me, I’d be so cranky by the time we ate that I’d never enjoy it.

    October 15, 2014
    • Truthfully, we had no idea how long it would take when we got in line! Believe me, we were mighty cranky (and HUNGRY) by the time we got in, but we were still able to enjoy it. I think if I went again, I’d bring snacks for the line. πŸ˜‰

      October 16, 2014
  3. Wow, that is definitely commitment to sushi! Glad it was worth the wait. I think it’s funny that a place like a market, where perfectly normal day-to-day activity is carried out, has become a tourist attraction in its own right!

    October 15, 2014
    • So much so, that all the tourists were interfering in business and causing accidents! :0 Apparently the whole market is moving to a new location in 2016, and it’ll be better able to accommodate it’s multiple “uses.” there. πŸ˜‰

      October 16, 2014
  4. Personally, I haven’t waited that long for food – when I’m hungry, I’m simply not patient enough to wait a long time until I get some food. It’s just like “I’m sure I’ll get somewhere else something faster without waiting that long” haha.
    Anyway, cool to read about your experiences in Tokyo πŸ™‚

    October 15, 2014
    • We’re usually not that patient either (especially hubby as you can tell by the photos), but we’re quite addicted to sushi, and the thought of having it at the freshest place in the world seemed too good too pass up! Next time, we’ll bring snacks for the line. πŸ˜‰

      October 16, 2014
  5. I would never wait in line for 3 hours for food… but looking at those gorgeous sushi, I might be persuaded to change my mind. πŸ™‚

    October 16, 2014
    • Lol… honestly, if we’d known exactly how long we had to wait, I’m not sure we would’ve done it. I do think it was worth it though, for the experience, and of course the sushi. Not sure if I would do it again though. Maybe… πŸ™‚

      October 16, 2014
  6. I was wondering what time did you line up for sushi dai?! I’m hoping to beat the line when I’m there next month.. Is that even possible?!

    October 16, 2014
    • Hey Tisha. Honestly, we got there pretty late, I think around 7:30? I think potentially if you got there really, really early, you might get a shorter line. The problem is that people try to see the tuna auction at 4:30/5:00, and if they don’t get in, they head straight to Sushi-Dai to line up for the 5AM opening. Sooo, I hate to say it, lol, but I think the only way to possibly maybe beat the line is to show up at 4:30? Good luck and let us know how it goes!! πŸ™‚

      October 16, 2014
      • Thank you so much for your reply! I was thinking 430 too.. Yes, we shall see πŸ˜€

        October 16, 2014
  7. That Rodizi style in Sao Palo…my mouth is watering.

    October 25, 2014
    • Sushi + all-you-can-eat is definitely a good idea! πŸ˜€ You must be a salmon lover? πŸ˜‰ I sure am.

      October 26, 2014

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