Tripping from Tokyo: The Nakaminato fish market

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Everyone has heard of Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, the largest fish market of its kind, with rows and rows of vendors selling the freshest catch of the day in every form. There are rules. They are tired of tourists. You can’t talk to the fishmongers, much less make eye contact. But what if you just want to gorge on a lot of fresh seafood at truly reasonable prices? Maybe you should stay a while in Nakaminato.

The Nakaminato market spans several buildings along the waterfront and is one of the biggest bases for coastal fishing. It’s big, but only a fraction of Tsukiji’s size. Inside the big market area, you will find men doing every aspect of the job, from cutting to packaging to hawking.

As long as you stay out of people’s way, you can take photos and videos. They aren’t as jaded or weary of tourists as the Tsukiji workers are yet, so if you go, try to be respectful of your surroundings. Here are some items we saw:

This last one is a monkfish. Any time you see them laid out, they will have their liver — prized at sushi bars — removed like this.

Fugu! And fugu salesmen who were intrigued by my Sony QX1!

What’s this outside the market area? Crab steaming in the shell…

Look at that kani miso! These shells were selling for 500 yen each. What a deal. The crab and miso were warm and comforting, and delicious eaten plain. I know a lot of  people said they wanted it with rice, but this was perfect as is.

You have no idea how good this warm kani miso tastes on a chilly, rainy day.

Next to the crab was a stall with grilled seafood items.

I’m sure a little fishing village can be a lonely place, but the grill guy was coming on very strong! Through Deb, he was asking how old I am, what I do, where I’m from, and then, of course, if I’m single. He said that he liked my hairstyle, and I’m his type. Was I looking particularly slutty that day? Anyway, he said he’d be my boyfriend and Deb was cracking up and feeling so grateful that he wasn’t coming on to her, too.

The oyster guy was not so friendly, and that was fine! One oyster for 300 yen, or two for 500 yen. Deal!

The guy shucked the oysters to order, of course, and you can splash as much ponzu on it as you want. There’s nothing like a fresh oyster!

This guy sells all kinds of dried, salted fish — and it’s super good! For dried fish, it’s very moist, and very tasty. It’s not fishy at all, and we considered buying some to go. We just weren’t sure about the perishability. But the guy was really generous with samples, which was kind of cool. You’d never see that at Tsukiji. Actually, quite a few of the vendors had trays of samples out at the front of their stalls, unattended, while they were busy doing something else. (And they were all good!)

We finally stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants in the complex in the back — they’re all fairly the same, so I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. This chirashi bowl is a number one best seller, at just 1,900 yen.

Butter scallop, 680 yen. Need I say more? This seems to be best eaten after all the liquid has boiled off and the butter makes a bit of a crust on the shell.

You have your choice of miso soup with the lunch set; we recommend the clam one. This soup, made with the tiny clams, is supposed to be very good for your system.

Deb and her über fresh nigiri plate, which was part of the lunch set.

…and more sashimi, part of the lunch set. The total for two people, with sake, came up to about $60, but they don’t take any credit cards! I think this may be the same for many of the restaurants there, so be prepared and bring lots of cash.

There’s probably nothing better than being a cat at a mellow fish market like Nakaminato. You can’t tell in this photo, but this buggah was huge! Life is good.

If you have the time, I would recommend Nakaminato for the fish market, as well as other sights in the area. It is definitely a good spot for seafood lovers, and is supposedly very popular during peak tourism season.

That was it for our travels outside of the city this time! Up next, a final look at some of the last couple of days in Tokyo, including meeting the famous Matt Alt of AltJapan.

To see all the photos from this trip, click here.