Put your taste buds to the test in Tokyo

SELECTION: Seafood for sale at the Tsukiji Market.

On arrival in Tokyo, I was looking for a sure-fire way to blitz the jet-lag.

The sensory onslaught of Tsukiji Market fitted the bill perfectly, as I revelled in the colour, the cacophony and organised chaos of the world’s largest seafood market.

Spanning the size of 430 rugby fields, the market metrics are gob-smacking. It’s the stomping ground for 50,000 workers, where over 1700 stalls sell 2000-tonnes of seafood daily, in 480 varieties. This grand encounter with the kitchen of Japan groans with polystyrene crates proudly splayed with every marketable sea creature – including whale meat.

Fancy watching the daily Tuna Auction? You’ll need to get here at the ungodly hour of 3am, to score a visitor’s slot in the tuna auction room. The dealing is all done by 6.30am.

Humming with post-auction activity, later in the morning, a veritable army of workers hauled freshly sold fish on fork-lifts, hand-carts and “turret trucks”, like speed-freak bees in a choreographed hive. I gazed in awe of hulking blue-fin tuna the size of refrigerators.

Half of Tokyo seemed to be out sampling and shopping. It’s a riveting introduction to the core ingredients in Japanese cuisine and the ebullient vendors happily hand-out free tastings. I grazed on seaweed, benito shavings, dumplings in soybean flour, smoked fish and kimchee squid.

Best of all, Tsukiji’s quintessential sushi restaurants offer the freshest raw fish fix possible. My tour group headed for Sushi Daiwa, situated next to Sushi Dai, which are the two famous sushi houses. Their pilgrimage-like pulling power means you may well find yourself queuing outside for several hours. We lucked in, with only a 15min wait.

Although they staff are too polite to say so, you are expected to eat and run at these sushi counters. Alongside the delectable slivers of tuna draped over a bed of rice, we noshed on congee reel, sea urchin and that celebrated Japanese delight, tamagoyaki, egg omelette roll.

If you’re sizing up one big blow-out in Tokyo, the Park Hyatt is the pinnacle of high-end hospitality.

The city’s most decorated hotel is the Park Hyatt which graces the upper-levels of a Kenzo Tange-designed high-rise, lording over west Shinjuku.

Considered the father of modern Japanese architecture, he was the master planner for the rebuilding of Hiroshima after World War 2. With the hotel floors beginning on the 41st level with the glass-walled reception, you can be assured your accommodation will be dressed with a sweeping panorama of the neon-drenched, sky-scrapered expanse of Tokyo.

Service is ultra-attentive without being starchy. Whether you’re staying in-house or not, the dining destinations are unmissable.


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•Navigating Tsukiji’s astonishing mercantile mecca can be bewildering, which is why I enlisted the expertise of Context Travel, who operate small-group guided walking tours. My trusty guide, John, unveiled Tsukiji’s tales, secrets and insights with effortless and eye-opening aplomb. Few walking tours are packed with such revelatory richness. www.contexttravel.com