A Trip to Toyosu for Genuine Sushi: Insider Tips to Beat the Crowds
Guideto JapanFood and Drink
(Don’t miss part 1 of this feature, which introduces the Toyosu Market’s tuna auctions and some of its top restaurants.)
Traditional Sushi Skills on Display
The Toyosu Market is Tokyo’s main wholesale location for fresh seafood. This of course makes it a key location supporting the country’s sushi industry—as well as a great place to eat some of the freshest sushi available anywhere.
Toyosu, along with its predecessor Tsukiji and all the other wholesale centers that have operated on Tokyo’s waterfront over the years, have been instrumental in the creation of the Edomae—literally, “from the waters right in front of Edo,” the old name for the capital—sushi tradition. If you’re looking for authentic Edomae sushi, try Sushi-Bun, whose history dates back some 180 years to the late Edo period (1603–1868). The shop fulfills all the fundamental tasks of an Edomae sushi establishment, offering raw fish and seafood as well as its its own tamagoyaki omelets and a customized soy sauce that is not so strongly flavored as the normal commercial brands.
The Sushi-Bun set menu features 10 pieces of seasonal sushi, homemade tamagoyaki omelet, three sushi rolls, and soup, all for ¥4,100. Only in the market can you get so much great, fresh sushi for such a reasonable price! Other menu items include the deluxe sushi set (¥3,200) and the customer’s choice set (8 or more pieces per person, sold at market price). You can also order one or more pieces of sushi to add on to a meal. (All prices in this article include consumption tax.)
The sushi of the day for our visit was ōtoro (extra-fatty tuna), yellowtail, chūtoro (medium-fatty tuna), akami (lean tuna), prawns, tairagi (Japanese pen shell), kohada (gizzard shad), akagai (ark shell), sea urchin, and conger eel, and the rolled sushi was a tuna sushi roll.
Tsukijirō, the seafood aficionado who is our guide for this feature, explains: “Popular sushi, like the three cuts of tuna, namely ōtoro, chūtoro, and akami, large prawns, and fatty yellowtail are all in abundance. The shop offers luxuriously large pieces of seafood on top of small balls of rice and sea urchin pilled so high it overflows the gunkan serving’s seaweed walls. The kohada, nearly synonymous with Edomae sushi, is marinated in a way that brings out the true flavor of the fish. The soft conger is coated in a sauce the restaurant has used since its founding, enveloping the eel in a gentle flavor. The less familiar tairagi is larger than a scallop and full of flavor.”
Sushi-Bun pays attention to the details, says Tsukijirō. “The soy sauce that the restaurant’s female owner prepares has a gentle flavor that unobtrusively brings out the taste of each piece of seafood. This made me realize just how important soy sauce is to sushi.”
3F Fisheries Wholesale Market
Business hours: 6:30 am to 2:00 pm (last order). All shops in this article are closed on Sundays, national holidays, and market holidays.
On the third floor of the Fisheries Wholesale Market Building there are eight sushi shops, including Sushi-Bun, and six other sushi shops in the market, including Daiwa Sushi on the first floor of the Fruit and Vegetables Building, which is the building closest to the Toyosu Market station, and Ryū Sushi on the third floor of the Management Facilities Building.
The market’s website has information on what days the market is open, so check before you go.
Not Just Souvenirs, but Gear for Real Market Workers
If you’re in a shopping mood, be sure to check out Uogashi Yokochō on the fourth-floor retail area in the Fisheries Wholesale Market Building.
The boots store Itō Uroko has been in business since 1910. The store has a huge selection of everything from boots for market workers to original Toyosu Market goods that make the perfect souvenir.
The T-shirts in the shop are a particularly popular gift item. People working at the fish market came up with the idea of creating the shirts, which feature slogans and sayings related to sushi, like: “Why would a Japanese eat grilled fish?!” and “It’s so fatty!” All of the shirts are durable, having been designed to be worn by market workers. The shop also has other great Toyosu mementos, like goods featuring the tourism mascot of the city of Kōtō, Kotomi-chan, as well as socks with fish designs.
Ms. Itō, the store’s owner, models a pair of Uroko-brand boots. The lightweight but strong and comfortable boots are popular among market workers, as well as outdoor enthusiasts. While we were reporting one customer came to buy a new pair of boots and said in praise: “Once you wear these you’ll never want to put anything else on your feet.” On rainy days you can also wear them around town, and they come in colorful, stylish versions too.
Business hours: 5:00 am to around 2:00 pm
Website: www.uroko-web.com/home.html (available in Japanese and Chinese)
Hungry? Try a Hearty Bentō Meal
Some of the bentō meals, grilled fish, and side dishes made with market seafood at the shop Hanetai. The shop is popular among market workers for the hearty portions and reasonable prices. The bentō lineup changes every day, including such items as fatty gin harasu (silver warehou) prepared teriyaki style and the salmon belly bentō. Also sells lots of food that goes great with your evening drinks, like grilled fish and skewer-roasted squid or eel.
Another popular item is the clams-on-rice bentō (¥700), featuring a heaping serving of clams on a bed of delectable rice.
Business hours: 6:00 am to around 2:00 pm
Website: www.uogashiyokocho.or.jp/shop/hanetai/ (available in Japanese only)
Kamimura (photos above) specializes in paper towels, wrapping paper, stationery, and other professional goods. One cute item is the Original Market Woven Baskets, an original adaptation of the sort of baskets used every day by people working at the market. Realistic-looking sushi candy is another recommended item. Actual seaweed is used in some of the candy.
Ōyama Shōten sells items that are just plain fun, like the plate at upper left in the photos above that looks like a piece of ceramic but is actually made out of plastic. Originally the shop sold food packaging, but after branching out to also sell decorative items for restaurants and bars, it evolved into what the owner describes as “this unique and strange place. Come here to unearth some treasures!
Other notable shops at Toyosu Market include the tamagoyaki omelet shop Marutake, as well as all sorts of shops dealing in everything from fruits and vegetables to dried food like bonito and kelp, miso, pickled vegetables, cheese, tea, and other foodstuffs. There are also specialty shops selling kitchen knives, containers, packaging, and other professional goods.
We’ve only introduced fraction of the things to do at Toyosu Market, so you’ll have to explore more on your own. The wholesale market fanatic Tsukijirō offers the following advice: “At first you can read up on information in guidebooks and on the Internet, but after visiting the market a few times, try to glean information about good shops and restaurants from store owners and regular customers. That will really broaden your experience.” We hope that you will discover your own favorite spots in Toyosu Market!
An ardent fan of the Tsukiji and Toyosu fish markets, he heads there or four times a week. Regularly posts information on his Japanese-language blog, Haru wa Tsukiji de asagohan (In Spring, Breakfast in Tsukiji). Also known for his appearances on TV programs spotlighting the fish markets.
(Originally published in Japanese by TV Tokyo Plus. Banner photo: Some of the spectacularly fresh morsels available at Sushi-Bun. All photos © TV Tokyo.)
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