At 4am on Thursday morning, the alarm clock goes off. And The Belated Birthday Girl and I spend the next 90 minutes utterly terrified that we didn’t get out of bed early enough.
Because today’s the day we’re visiting the tuna auction at Tsukiji fish market, one of the hottest tourist attractions in the whole of Tokyo. It’s not really intended as such, of course: Tsukiji is a proper working market, the largest one of its kind in the world, and the daily sale of several tons of imported frozen tuna is a serious business. But over the years, any tourists who can drag themselves to Tsukiji in time for a 5am kick-off have been allowed to watch the proceedings.
You’ve seen sitcoms: you know the risk of having people on an auction floor who don’t really understand what’s going on. And over the years, the market traders have become more and more irritated with the pesky gaijin getting in the way of their livelihood. On several occasions, tourists have been completely banned from attending the auction. By coincidence, the week we’re in Tokyo, they’re only just starting to let visitors back in again after a month-long lockout. The new procedures aren’t particularly well documented, but we understand that a maximum of 140 people will be allowed entry to the auction on a first-come first-served basis after the 5am opening.
At 5am on Thursday morning, we’re still on the approach road leading up to the market. Will we be able to get there in time? (Okay, I realize the picture of a tuna auction up there kills the suspense a little, but work with me here.)