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Journey in Japan Part 64: Fins Can Only Get Batter

Today, my friend and I head over to Tsukiji, to visit a fish market. Outside the train station, the outer market is crowded with mostly tourists. It is fair to say that along the small streets lining the market, we are literally packed like sardines. There are many small food stores selling fish caught fresh this morning, and the smell of fish is pleasant and anything but overpowering. The freshness of the food here can really be noted.

Buckets of huge tuna sit soaked in blood and ice. Live crabs try to escape their fate by crawling from weighing scales, and the hustle and bustle of the market is present at every turn.

We wander the outer market and into what looks like a giant warehouse. This is the wholesale section of the market, and the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. People carrying huge white polystyrene boxes of frozen fish cruise past on electric bikes. Tuna that costs more than a house is on sale and on display. People are rushing. Market traders are yelling. It is all a bit overwhelming.

We wander the entire length of the wholesale market; which takes about twenty minutes at a hurried pace. At the other side of the market, we wander into a shrine to receive our fortune in the form of a sacred lot; one of the traditional cultures in Japan which you can experience at Japanese shrines and temples. We both pay ¥200 and both receive a ‘Very lucky’ fortune. We wonder if they are all the same.

After Tsukiji, we take the train over to Tokyo Big Sight. Outside Tokyo International Exhibition Center, there are about one thousand people in Cosplay; dressed as their favourite comic book characters.

Men dressed as women pose for photographs for a queue of excited Otaku. A guy in a schoolgirl outfit follows us as we enter the main building. Today is Winter Comiket, a comic market event with a focus on independent manga artists. Ninety percent of the people here are men wearing glasses, and conform seamlessly to the stereotype of a comic book fan.

Entry is free. Inside the West Halls, there are rows upon rows of small stands, each selling individual comic books. There is no stage. No other entertainment. Only comic books. I can understand the appeal to those that read manga, but for me, the event gives me very little satisfaction. In fact, my friend and I agree that it is all a little too much. The crowds are insane, and oddly, most of the comic books seem to feature covers that can only be described as pornography.

After ten minutes of wandering along endless rows of comics, we decide to leave. On the way out, we bump into another friend of ours. He is standing around playing with his ‘Selfie Stick’ with a disappointed look on his face. He only bought the stick today, but already it has broken; perhaps through overuse, perhaps it was cheaply made.

We leave Tokyo Big Sight and walk across the Dream Bridge and the Teleport Bridge, before arriving at Decks, Odaiba. We grab some cheap food at Yoshinoya; one of my favourite chain restaurants because it sells grilled eel with a bottle of beer at an extremely low price.

Leaving Yoshinoya, we are handed a flyer for the Tokyo Trick Art Museum. It looks interesting enough and is only ¥900, so we decide to take a look.

The flyer says, “Do want to play with Japanese ghosts and monsters? You can take funny photos. Don’t be scared. It is fun.” The queue is mostly populated by families with children. Perhaps this isn’t for adults at all. Trapped in the queueing system, there is no going back, and eventually we’re inside and being given a guided group tour of the museum, in Japanese.

We wander through the Edo area, and the Ninja house. At one point we have to find a secret door; perhaps the most interesting thing in the museum. We take photographs in various positions, but they all turn out looking poor. We solve optical illusions, look at drawings from different angles, and get eaten by a whale. The best illusion was one of a vampire with a wine glass.

After the Tokyo Trick Art Museum, we head back to Asakusa to drink wine. We opt for a relatively early night, tired from five days of constant walking around and sightseeing. Tomorrow, an eagerly anticipated trip to Tokyo Disneyland awaits.

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