Sushi Dai in Tsukiji Fish Market serves up some of the best and freshest fish on top of amazing sushi rice. The Michelin Star rated joint seats about 12 people, and a meal takes up to 45 minutes. With hundreds of people waiting in line each day, a queue can take up to 5 hours. Here’s how we did it.
We flew into Tokyo on a Friday afternoon, and we caught a bus to Ginza (less than $10pp; taking the bullet train is 4xs more expensive, but if you have an activated JR Pass it would be worth using it). The bus dropped us off a subway stop (get a Suica card for easy subway transport before you leave the airport) away from our hotel. Super convenient!
With the 14 hour time difference between Tokyo and Houston, it was obvious we’d have jet lag the first couple of days. I booked a hotel right on the outskirts of the Tsukiji Fish Market at Tokyu Stay Tsukiji for that one night. It was just over $100/nt on Orbitz (they always have some sort of 15% off coupon) and about a 7 minute walk to Sushi Dai. The reason for staying so close is because the subways don’t run that early in the morning (and you’ll want to queue in line sometime after 2am for the shop’s 5am opening). You could take a taxi, but we thought the cheapest and easiest option would be to stay within walking distance to the restaurant. This came in handy for me as I had to walk back to the room to take care of some toilet business (sorry TMI). There are public restrooms right outside the market, but who wants to sit on that when you can have your own private throne? FYI: there are also pod/capsule hotels nearby if you don’t want to spend too much on a room, but no private bathrooms with those.
Our jetlag kicked in around 6pm Friday evening, but we soldiered through to eat dinner and then crashed at 8pm. We woke up at 1am Saturday morning. We had originally planned to get in line at 3am, but since we were up, we took our time getting ready and made it to the restaurant at 2:30am. I guess we took too long because the line was already 18 people deep! This meant we weren’t going to make it to the first seating at 5am and that our breakfast would be at 5:45am (putting our wait at just over 3 hours).
Tip: if you’re flying into Japan, make sure you land during the week because wait times are a lot shorter than on weekends. There were business men still in their suits with briefcases that had just gotten off work standing in line in front of us that early Saturday morning. Also, colder weather months cut the wait time significantly.
The wait was not too bad since both my husband and I were fully awake and enjoyed watching the fish market come to life. There are countless motorized carts zooming around in all directions. Just watch out for them, especially before sunrise. You share the road, and there was no sidewalk from where we entered into the market, and also minimal to no street lighting.
Between 3-4am, someone comes out and counts the line and takes note of how many people are in your party (I was in the bathroom when that happened and my husband informed him there were two of us). Between 4-5am, they pass a menu and ask what you want to order. There are only two choices.
The wholesale area (the parts of the market you will usually see on TV) doesn’t open until after 10am, so we walked around for a bit and went back to the hotel at 7:30am. We would have come back, but I had a date with Dominique Ansel Bakery Japan that I did not want to miss. More on that in a later blog post if I ever get around to it.
5 Chome-2 Tsukiji
Chūō, Tokyo, Japan
Note: the Tsukiji Fish Market is moving locations towards the end of 2018. Not sure, but Sushi Dai may be moving with them.