On a recent trip to Tsukiji Market tagging along with Only in Japan, we had an opportunity to interview Hirobumi Morita. A pro buyer at the market and now a part of Tsukiji Sushi Workshop.
Tokyo Cheapo: How long have you been buying at Tsukiji market?
Hirobumi Morita: I have been buying here for about ten years.
TC: What is your favourite fish to buy fresh at the market?
I often buy mackerel. It’s really easy to buy bad mackerel (known as saba in Japanese) but if you can get it fresh, it tastes kind of amazing.
TC: If I am a visitor in the inner market, what are the rules? How can I avoid the workers or guards shouting at me?
It’s important not to bother or annoy the workers. This is because they are delivering or procuring deals for the day and they have to move so quickly. Any action that causes them to slow down like walking slowly or stopping on a corner has to be carefully avoided.
TC: If I have a limited budget, what seafood is the best value?
For a Kaisen-don (sashimi on rice), it’s usually good to choose akami—the red part of tuna. It doesn’t contain fat, so it’s healthy. It’s also cheaper than other parts of the tuna like o-toro—the fatty part. Akami is almost everywhere in Tsukiji market so it’s easy to find. That’s why it’s cheap.
TC: Are different fish better value during certain seasons?
Yes each fish has its best seasons. Of course major fish like tuna or salmon are being fished from all over world, so all seasons are okay.
Here are the fish to look out for each season.
Spring: mackerel, horse mackerel, Spanish mackerel, black rockfish
Summer: amberjack, squid, sea bass
Autumn: scabbard fish, scorpion fish
TC: Is it OK to haggle over the price?
Basically it’s not okay, as it’s already discounted. However, after 9:30am or 10am they discount the price further to sell all their fish. At that time, you may haggle. Sometimes the clerks will give you the lower price without even asking.
TC: There are long lines of tourists outside the sushi places next to the inner market. Are the sushi places inside the market really better than those in the outer market?
I think their marketing and reputation are working well rather than their sushi being good. How can the quality differ if they’re all procuring from the same place? The difference is from other aspects like their interior, the atmosphere, and reviews from people who are enjoying the sushi restaurants as something like an attraction. It’s 100% better to make it by yourself, just like I do!
TC: Do the workers in the market eat sushi every day? If not, what do they eat?
Not really. Some companies prepare a bento for their workers. If they don’t have a bento, usually gyudon, ramen, soba or curry are the choices for them. (The very first branch of the famous gyudon restaurant chain Yoshinoya is inside the market.)
TC: Lastly, please tell us a little about the workshop and the tours you run.
To tell visitors the truth about sushi, I along with some professional chefs started ‘Tsukiji Sushi Workshop‘. You can learn sushi-making from the procurement of the best ingredients through to the filleting. Please see our website!