I’m usually not one for flying but I am looking forward to the flight back to Vancouver in that it will allow me ten glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Truth is, following a fitful post-sake night’s sleep followed by a late 3:00 a.m. turn-in the following night followed by an early 7:30 a.m. wake-up the next morning, I am exhausted.  And all of the rich food hasn’t helped.  But I’m on vacation, my trip is almost done, and I wanted to squeeze in as much as possible into those final days.  Like…a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market for breakfast.

Now, even though I’d had an excellent sushi dinner the night before at Sushi Tsubaki, and was scheduled to have lunch at Sushi Saito that day, I elected to go ahead and have a sushi breakfast anyway – just for the experience.  My partner in degustation on this morning – none other than my fellow foodie and Tokyo traveler Stefan.  Apparently, my buddy has grown weary of the communication gap between him and the locals and is now considering cutting short his planned six week stay and catching the next available flight home.  While he’s enjoyed the food, he hasn’t been blown away by the offerings, especially given the price point.  For his money, he’d choose Paris over Tokyo any day.  His favorite meal here to date wasn’t at a posh restaurant at all but a simple ramen shop where he enjoyed a revelatory bowl of noodles.  All the more reason for me to take a different approach the next time I’m in town: high-end dining for dinner and casual eats for lunch.

Well, live and learn.  And, on this morning, we were eating plenty casual.  I met Stefan at the Tsukiji subway stop and, from there, headed out to the market where we wandered about, looking for the sushi-ya he ate at days earlier.  We found it and its equally popular neighbor looking mighty busy, with line-ups outside both.  But, we noted, there were plenty of other lineless sushi-ya’s around.  Could they be that much difference between them?

Apparently so as we soon discovered.  We picked a place with long counter seating, about as deep as a city bus and half as wide.  He ordered the tuna bowl (containing various types of sashimi) while I went with the tuna platter (containing various types of nigiri).  In a word: meh.  I mean, the tuna was fresh and very good, certainly better than you could find in any school bus-sized eatery in North America, but not a place I’d ever return to.

Stefan and I enjoy(?) our Tsukiji breakfast.

After breakfast, we wandered around the market for awhile looking for another one of Stefan’s knife shops.  Yes, the guy is knife-obsessed, but more in an interested-chef-manner than, say, a serial-killer-kind-of-way.  Twice, he stopped to ask the locals for directions.  After the second time, I told him that he might want to consider changing his approach to his approach.  “What do you mean?”he wanted to know.  I told him that the Japanese are not big on touching in a social context and his manner of laying his big mitts on the shoulders of passing strangers to get their attention might be deemed…a little brusque.  “Really?”he asked, genuinely mystified.  “Well,”I said, “didn’t you notice the look of sheer terror on that guy’s face when you came up behind him like that?”  Nope.  “Okay, how about that woman who reacted by instinctively throwing her hands up to protect her face.”  “Yeah,”he sheepishly replied.  “I did notice that.”  And then quickly: “But I can’t help it.  I’m a toucher!”

Anyway, me and the toucher finally tracked down his knife shop where he picked up a big-ass shark skin wasabi grater in addition to some souvenirs of our unmemorable trip to Tsukiji…

Fresh wasabi
"Fish market shirts are very popular. They are very nice for your friends gifts. They might be pleased." Maybe.

Eventually, Stefan and I went our separate ways as he headed off to check out the Imperial Garden while I made a much shorter trip to take in the sights and sounds of The Pierre Marcolini Cafe before hopping into a cab and heading over to meet Jessica for lunch at Sushi Saito.

Yep, almost sushi’d out.  Al-most.  Still, lunch was excellent.  Will provide pics and details on that, a Jessica-hosted macaron-off, dinner with Tomomi at Yamada Chikara, and my last lunch in Tokyo for the time being.


36 thoughts on “December 9, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #15 – Tsukiji, How Not to Approach the Locals, Flying Out

  1. Heh…I’m a toucher, too. Funny, because while I’ll touch someone as I talk to them, etc., I do NOT like being touched in return. I guess I feel like it’s an invasion of my personal space (I don’t like ‘close talkers’, either), but I am totally unaware that I may be invading someone else’s personal space with my touchy-feely ways. Can’t help it – I guess it’s one of my ‘compulsions’ – I love to feel things. Usually I can control it, except when it comes to fur…on or off the animal. I’ve even been known to ask strangers if I can ‘pet’ their fur coats (oddly enough, I’ve never been turned down!). 😛

    Hope you get sleep on the flight! Safe trip!


  2. I am not a touchy-feely person – I want people to stay out of my personal space. Like Das I am not a ‘close talker’ either and am usually very distracted by people who are – to the point of missing out on the actual conversation.

    Hope the rest of your journey runs (and flies) smoothly. The family will welcome you home with open arms – you will be a Canadian bearing gifts.


  3. Glad you went to the market – even with the mixed results. The soba may have been a better idea than sushi. You already have had the best there. Surprising that a sophisticated foodie such as Stefan the Toucher didn’t realize this cultural no-no. In any case, how lucky for you to have been able to share so many great meals with someone as knowledgeable as him.

    FYI – I have not had time to read the Misenchanted Sword for the BOTMC. I will make sure to read Diving into the Wreck for next month.

    Thank you for the great reportage on this culinary adventure. It was a vicarious thrill ride for me.

    Safe trip & Happy dreams.

    PS – Alaina Huffman had a baby girl today. Read this via David Blue’s Tweets.

  4. At the rate you’re eating the sushi(never mind the cod sperm) I suspect you’re hiding gills on the side of your neck ala Man from Atlantis(oh geez, did I just admit to having actually watched that show? Have a safe and sleepful flight home, and looking forward to your final reports. p.s. David Weber’s Torch of Freedom is a great read, and boy is he setting things up for some seroius fireworks.

  5. Joe has it really been 2 weeks, wow, time did fly. Good thing you are catching up(sleep) on your oh my gosh 10 hour flight home, I hope the seat reclines real nice. safe trip ands welcome home!

  6. Have a safe trip home, and sleep well! Amazing how quickly two weeks go by. Betcha can’t wait to see those pups of yours!

  7. Burners are a huggy bunch, and they wear a lot of faux furry and fuzzy fabrics, all of which invites much petting and casual touch. Took me a few years to get used to that as I’d picked up a Japanese sense of space after 12 years. Very close an impersonal when shoved in to subway cars, otherwise not much eye contact, and no direct touch in most situations. Hugs freaked out my Japanese friends, and watching the ones who rode Harleys bowing formally in their black leathers always was a bit of a mental disconnect for me. These days I’m used to slightly chemically altered buddies stroking my costumes in their ecstasy induced, blissed-out way.

    Casual lunches? Alright!!! Although casual for you may have been my high end dinners… okonomiyaki? Hai! Sukiyaki? Hai! Yakisoba? Hai, hai!!!! Hint: ramen is best from the noodle carts which magically appear around three a.m. when the bars are closing and you’re walking home because the trains and buses have stopped running and you know you drank your cab fare and you really, really need some food in your belly to steady your gait and you want to stick your face in the steam and cup your hands around the hot bowl to warm up. And yes, that has to be said as a run on sentence.

  8. Stefan is just awesome.
    Think about it: the man brought two different scarfs with him and one is bright yellow and the other is bright orange. Now that is a character.

  9. *rushing out to check the mailbox each day, to see if a shirt from the Fish Market arrives…*

  10. The “Stefan the Toucher” story was funny. I’m more of a double arms length kind of person.

    The other day you said you had to “tap out” after only two bites. I assume that meant one more bite and you would have barffed? That could have been a cool video with your dinner date manning the camera. And SGU could have used the footage…the way they are constantly showing people vomiting on the show. I can tell you are getting tired. The smile on your face is not as huge, and your eyes are looking a little crossed.

    Sorry your vacation is over. I have felt like I was there. Your blog was like reading a good book. Maybe we could get the author to do a Q&A when he gets home? Thanks for letting us come along!

  11. Hope you have a restful flight.

    @artdogspot: Yeah, she was giving a pretty up-to-date list of her dilation status, eppy situation, etc. It was nice.

  12. Haha! If some strange dude came up to me on the street and put his hands on my shoulders, he’d probably find himself punched in the face. I’m actually surprised that in a nation known for martial arts, that didn’t happen.

    Oh, and close talkers. Yeah, I’m right with you guys. Super annoying. Makes me feel like I’m in a movie, where people talk to each other at ridiculously short distances. I’m like, “Whoa there. Just… take a step back.”

  13. @Joe – Hey, just stopping by to see how you’re doing. Stefan sounds soooo sweet! I don’t usually mind touchers, although I’m not one. On the other hand, I do mind up close talkers, especially if they have bad breath.

    You look so sad in your picture. It could just be me though. It’s always a little sad when vacations are just about over. But, you’ve got a great family of dogs and a wife to get back to. I’m sure you can’t wait to see them.

    I’ll check back in a little while to see if there are any new puppy pics.

    Peace & Love,


  14. How much exercising did you manage on this trip? I’m thinking not much. Not that your end-of-trip photos look any different from your start-of-trip photos — rather that I can’t imagine you could possibly have found the time to work out, in between your jam-packed dining and socializing schedule and blogging every day.

    Anyway, thanks for sacrificing your cardiovascular health on the altar of top-notch food blogging. It’s been incredibly entertaining to read and view the photos — and I feel like I know Stefan myself, you’ve written about him so much. (I definitely would be able to recognize him from a mile off, that’s for sure!)

  15. Here in South Texas, it’s tradition to ask to touch something one admires…to remove the “mal ojo” (evil eye or bad luck) that attached to the item as it was admired.

  16. You DID go to breakfast! Yay! To the breakfast bar with no lines? Sorry it was a flat experience. A champion foodie knows wherever the locals are queueing up is “de place,” right?

    Still, you get a big pat on the back for humoring “the breakfast club” and the sign-lovers. 😀
    AND you are very brave for eating sushi at “0-dark-thirty.” I adore sushi, but even I can’t eat it first thing in the morning. Will they serve you breakfast on the plane? Or does the idea of eating anything right now make you turn green? :green:

    The upside? The dogs will still smell sushi on your breath and cover you with extra kisses. Fondy will love you regardless. Paul, Carl, Rob, and Brad will make you eat lunch by yourself. And Ivon has probably already planned a new work out for you. Welcome back to Vancouver.

    Oh, Canada! 🙂

  17. Wow, you got dinner and a real show with Chef Ramsey! While I wouldn’t eat most of it, I’d probably go just for the experience. And the martini. I loved the smoke coming out of your eating companion’s nose. She was so cute!

    Ok, tell me what the point of all the foam is? I mean, most of the time we try to avoid foam (our sodas, our beers, other things probably…) and yet you eat a lot of it and every third thing on the Food Network channel uses it. What gives?

    When it comes to strangers, I have massive space bubbles. I might tap them on the shoulder to get their attention if I’m in a crowded, noisy place, but that’s about it. Friends and family, I’m probably a more in your face because I get excited about things.lol But in general, not really touchy-feely. Poor Stefan.

    How your flight is restful! I can never sleep on planes. It’s terrible. 8 hour flights to London are no fun. I can’t even imagine Tokyo to Vancouver (then again, that might be less of a distance, I don’t really know).

  18. Have a safe trip!

    So, do you think of Paris as your next travel destination, now? 😉

  19. Finally, FINALLY got to watch “Justice.” Flawed characters indeed! I need to watch it again, because I’m not sure I understood that last bit with Eli and Young, except that Eli isn’t fooled and is very disilllusioned.

    As Rush said, he and Young will never be “done,” but I’m wondering if Rush will seek vengance and/or public denunciation, or if he will see what Young did as an unexpected but “understandable” move. You just never know with Rush.

  20. HOLY F***!!! this is incredible

    “Firesky announces Stargate Resistance video game”

    didnt i suggest that title to you for the third movie???? coincidence? i dont think so. hell that title shouldve been for the movie like i told you. but i bet for them the title Revolution inspired the title Resistence in some way. i cant be the only one who thought of it after reading about stargate revolution.

    anyway, are there gonna be more flashbacks in season 2? because its really a turn off. the more they reveal about themselves the more i dislike them.

  21. Coucou Joseph 🙂

    Et oui, déjà, votre voyage touche à ça fin…c’est vrai que vous en avez profité à 100%!

    Rentré à Vancouver vous fera aussi du bien après votre séjour à Tokyo, c’est un peu les vacances des vacances^^!

    Rentrez bien 🙂
    Gros bisou!!

  22. That fresh wasabi could be a good inspiration for a new alien… looks positively ‘triffid-ish’ to me!!!

    Safe journey back to Vancouver buddy.

    Don’t forget to tuck into some good home cooking once you get back!

  23. Have a safe trip back Joe! And congrats to Alaina Huffman and her husband. (I don’t Twit, so this will have to suffice.) =)

  24. Joey, home yet?? I think you’re gonna need another couple of weeks vaca to recover from this one! 🙂


  25. Wow that went fast, hope you are home safe and sound and I bet the troops are glad to see you, Fondy too.

    Thank so much for taking is along again. I think you’re right, about last year posting on your trip, you post everyday,but I think you posted above and beyond for us this time around. Yeah, how did squeeze all that in?

    I was wondering is there a world’s record for the most consecutive posts??? Have you checked that out?? I think you could qualify and win that title. That was some dedication to us, your fans, Thanks Joe. Big hug!

  26. ahhh, grab em and give em a big hug!!!

    Have a safe flight back, and demand Sci Fi to air the rest of SGU!!!!!!!!!

  27. Hello,

    HA ! “Justice “. Just for the fun of it, I was remembering the end of the episode. Just before the gate closed we were saying ” “He won’t … holy crap, he did!”
    HHAAA ! good , very good and clever endind…

  28. The activist being held under the BC “mental health” act has been released. Of course, there was never anything wrong with him, they just didn’t want to declare that until his bus was due to leave.

    Now that he’s free, he has an additional cause – the people still being held unjustly. They messed with the wrong guy.

  29. still no cucumber pepsi or green tea coke? bummer.

    have a nice trip back & hopefully you can get a nice rest on the plane. both of the times that i flew (anime-expo in july & dragon con in sept.) i could barely keep my eyes open on the return flight. i guess it was everything catching up with me.

  30. Does this mean you’re home, safe and sound? (Physically sound, that is…jury is still out on the mentally sound part… 😉 )


  31. Well, with das‘s post there, I’m assuming you’re indeed home. Welcome home! Just in time for the snow and the crap snow-driving Vancouverites are known for! 😀

    I’ve greatly enjoyed your trip blogging! Thank you so much! Although, I did miss a day or two due to school work; I should catch up with those. Also, the stuff with the maid coffee was kinda creepy. 😉

  32. I feel like “They Might Be Pleased” is a knockoff band name! 😀

    Hey Joe, when you get home, will the new restaurant that is not Fuel be done? I’m curious about it… can’t wait for the reviews!

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