Books and Fish, two seemingly unrelated things. Fish doesn't read books, but you could read a book about fish, or eat fish when you're reading a book. Anyway, books and fish were the two things I encountered on my first day in Tokyo.
BOOKS from Books and FishOn my first morning in Tokyo, I came out from my hotel ready to venture Tokyo. As soon as I stepped outside, I saw lots of people setting up some stalls on the road. I hadn't realised this, but my hotel was in Jinbocho, an area that has many second hand book stores, a bit like Charing Cross in London. And it turns out this weekend was The 28th Jinbou Book Festival. The whole street was closed off for the festival, and the atmosphere was very different from the evening before.
A lot of people had gathered at one end of the street when I came out from breakfast. It looks like there would be some sort of opening ceremony. A brass band was waiting on the street, and there were many dignitaries all wearing a tradition jacket. Naturally I lingered around as I wasn't in any hurry to go anywhere. After all that's the whole point of going on holiday, to experience and explore. In my opinion, anything that's been going on for 28 years is worth watching. Check out the video here.
AN ORDERLY FESTIVAL
After the ribbon cutting ceromony, people started wandering around the festival. Everyone and everything at the festival was so calm and orderly. All the stalls were pretty small and were set up back to back, so all the customers were only facing one side. They wouldn't be criss crossing any aisles causing traffic jams and bumping into one another.
What really amazed me was people queuing up on the side of the road. I've been to other book festivals before where people queue up to buy limited editions or get autographs. But this was a totally different level. There were grown up book lovers, patiently waiting in line just so they can go to browse at a second-hand book stall. I don't know where else apart from Japan you will see this.
FISH from Books and FishJapan is most famous for sushi and sashimi, and the Tsukiji Fish Market in central Tokyo used to be one of a major tourist attraction. I've been to Tsukiji before, and love the vibe of the market. Eating the freshest sashimi in the restaurant at the Tsukiji outer market is something that you don't forget even after all these years. Tsukiji closed in October 2018, literally weeks before I was in Japan. The new Toyosu Fish Market opened a little further out of town. Toyosu Fish Market is one of the largest fish market in the world, and to be honest was a little disappointing.
愛玩愛吃的朋友到東京一定會到築地市場。這個80多年老的市場今年10月底搬到距離不遠的豐州市場。星期六去的時候人山人海，吃午餐足足等了 1.5小時!! 豐州市場還有批發水果蔬菜市場，整個區像商業區多於市場，完全沒市場應有的熱鬧氣氛。
The whole complex consisted of the fish market and a wholesale fruit and veg market connected on both sides of the road by walkways. If I didn't know, I'd never guess that this was a fish market. It looked like some commercial buildings. There was no buzz nor vibe at all. And the fact I went on a Saturday lunchtime didn't help either. Look at the people as I entered.
There are many restaurants inside this building and massive queues at everyone one of them. I choose the shortest queue, and guess how long I waited for? 1.5 hours!!!! 90 minutes!!! 5400 seconds!!!! I had no choice really. If I left, it probably would have taken me about the same amount of time to get back into central Tokyo and find somewhere eat. Was it worth it? Let's just say it was very good after the long wait.
Tsukiji outer marketThe Tsukiji wholesale fish market may have closed, but the outer market for tourists still exists. On the way back into town, I dropped by to look around. It was late afternoon already, but you could instantly imagine that this is what a market should feel and look like. It would be vibrant and full of life.
There are still many restaurants around this area and they were getting ready for the Saturday evening trade. These restaurants aren't as new or nicely decorated as those at lunchtime, but they sure do have a lot more character. Based on my limited knowledge of Japanese food (I love it but can't claim to be a connoisseur), sashimi is a commoditized product. What elevates it is the skill of the chef preparing it, the garnish, the side dishes and the ambience. I have a feeling you will find it here - as well as evidence of freshly prepared sashimi.
Tsukiji Honganji Temple
My final stop of the day was the Tsukiji Honganji Temple. Actually the only reason I stopped by the Tsukiji outer market was because on the way out to Toyosu, I noticed a very unique temple. The Tsukiji Honhanji Temple is very different from traditional Japanese temples, in fact it's very different from many other temples. That's what caught my eye.
The temple was first built in 1617. Over the years, it has survived a fire, earthquake and presumable wars. This current structure was rebuilt in 1936 in an India Buddist style, and its architecture is rare in Japan. Apparently the inside of the temple also has a western twist. It has stained glass window and a pipe organ from Germany. Unfortunately the temple was closed when I arrived. Nevertheless, the outside was something remarkable, perfect to wind off my busy day.
This is part of my Revisiting Travels series, a repost of my post that I first posted two years ago