You wouldn’t be wrong if you thought it would be quite difficult to be vegetarian in Japan as a visitor, especially if you didn’t speak the local language. However, with some advanced planning, a basic understanding of Japanese cuisine and some good friends who acted as interpreters, we were well fed throughout our entire trip.
I’ll get into more details about the meals we had in a later post, but I thought I’d share some pictures from the markets we visited. We woke up at 3:30 am on Friday morning to head over to Tsukiji Market to see the fish auction – may seem like an odd activity for a couple of vegetarians, but it is definitely an experience to see. Local restauranteurs arrive at 5 in the morning to check out the catch of the day and then the bidding begins. I had to try hard not to think of the poor tuna that was being picked and prodded at by the bidders.
The husband and I took a cab with two of his co-workers to the market. The cab driver dropped us off at the main entrance of the market – however, this “main” entrance was actually intended for the vendors setting up shop. We walked through the entire market’s restricted area, only to be told at the other end that “we shouldn’t be there”. We were then redirected to the “tourist” line – I’m glad we broke the rules on this one, because we got to see the hustle and bustle of farmers setting up their goods, including some beautiful vegetables.
After the bidding ended, we headed over to the vegetable market side and strolled around – all this activity and it was only 7am – no wonder we managed to average walking over 10 miles a day!
The other fun market we checked out was in Kyoto – the Nishiki market. The market is named after a shrine that is at one end of the street. The streets are lined with tofu vendors, ceramic stores, kitchen supplies, fresh vegetables and a lot of things I would never eat! The most exciting part of this market for me was visiting Aritsugu, a 450 year old knife store. At first, I was determined to come home with a new knife, but as fascinating as the knives were, I found the weight and balance to be quite unfamiliar – I think I’ll stick to my Wusthof’s, but this store was still fun to visit!
We also came across so many different ceramic stores, all of which were beyond my reach! All the pieces were custom and hand made, so a single tea cup could easily cost 10000 Yen (approx $135 USD) – that being said, I could appreciate the price considering the love and labour going into each individual item.
The one market I didn’t get a chance to go to was in Asakusa – it is where the restaurants get all of their supplies. It was a bit on the outskirts of Tokyo, and we ran out of time by the end of our trip. I’m probably better off anyways – I don’t know if I would have been able to control myself there :).
Stay tuned for more (foodie) posts about our trip!