My Japanese Heaven – Part 4 of 4 – How sushi actually made me cry

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OK, I’ll make this short (kind of):

The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is the largest one in the world. I was lucky enough to visit it in November before it is moved to a new location (this year or the next I think). I’m saying this because I think that the old warehouse it’s in very much contributes to its incredible atmosphere. And although, as you’ll see in the pictures, it looks really old and dirty and dark, I have never visited a fish market before that didn’t even smell like fish. I mean, it does, but it smells like really fresh fish… The best time to visit it is at 9am when it opens to the public. By ten thirty everything is kind of over. You can make reservations in advance to be there at 5 or 6 in the morning for the tuna auction, but I really didn’t see the point of that. My niece who lives in Tokyo and always has foreign guests staying with her had told me that friends of theirs who visited before had been treated very poorly at the market. They were shouted at, even had dirty fish water thrown at their feet. So I was quite worried about the experience I would have, especially since I wanted to take so many pictures… The experience of it was quite the opposite of what I had been told. I showed up at 9 sharp and had the most incredible experience. I was even offered tea and had a long talk about France and wine with one of the merchants… The secret? Be polite, smile and stay out of the bloody way!!

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Next stop that day was Kidoguchi (tel 03 54673992), my nephew’s favorite sushi restaurant in town. Let’s just say that the experience was so amazing that it made me tear up. I am not joking when I tell you it was the most refined dining experience I have ever had! You guys know how much I appreciate, admire and love craftsmen and women; people who are passionate about what they do. Well, even though I have had my share of fine dinning experiences in my life, this one was just that much more special. The textures, the freshness of each ingredient, the perfectly crafted sequence in which each piece was served… Truly amazing. Comparable to a religious experience. In addition to that, the Sous Chef is the son of a diplomat and speaks the most perfect English. This made the experience even more special as he was able to explain each part of the traditional sushi meal: what he was serving, when and why, etc… The problem is that I am a sushi nut, and because of this experience, I will never be able to appreciate a sushi meal again outside of Japan…

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On my last day, Alice (my adorable niece) had booked a private cooking class for the two of us. We had asked for a tempura theme. We met our host Yuka (Yuka’s Japanese Kitchen) at the metro station and she took us shopping for the ingredients first. That was the most interesting part for me as she was able to describe each and every ingredient in the shop (OK, almost each ingredient). You see, I am a fan of Japanese food, but the cooking culture is so different from mine that I needed to understand the basics first… We learned how to make the tempura sauce and miso soup from scratch… Truly fun and inspirational!! Thanks Alice!!

Alright. Now that we are done with the Japanese interlude, I will be back very soon with some good traditional French dishes for you guys to try… Bonne soirée mes amis!

61 Comments Add yours

  1. Sho says:

    Oishīdesu! I’m so very glad I got to stumble upon your blog. Love the pictures and how you’ve captured the soul of the place. Dōmo arigatōgozaimashita.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m glad you found the blog too and that you like it!

  2. chef mimi says:

    Fabulous. I just had a thought… next time you go to NYC, I can be there, too! And Emma! She loves her job, I just wish the Guggenheim wasn’t only about contemporary art… But I’d still go to an opening, just for fun. And the champagne! I can’t say enough about your Japan posts. Your photography is so professional, and tell such beautiful stories!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh I LOVE you right now! Here I was having a miserable day and now I feel so much better! You’re the best. And YES! You, Emma, champagne, New York = perfection! I wish Emma worked at the Met. Don’t u?

      1. chef mimi says:

        maybe the next job?

  3. pastedreams says:

    I used to live in Tokyo (Aoyama area) and really miss Tsukiji. I only went to the fish market a couple times but your pictures capture the energy and people so well. It’s true that you are forever ruined for sushi once you leave Japan. Even the sushi in NYC doesn’t measure up! Thanks for the trip down memory lane 🙂

  4. This sounds like an amazing experience. I wanted to tell you that I LOVE your photography, particularly the shots of the various people. You seem to have a real knack for capturing their energy and light. It’s beautiful.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are too kind dear Ashley! I am building a site with all my favorite portraits. It will be up soon. I will announce it on the blog 😉

  5. Amazing. Some of these photographs remind me of ones I have seen of Japan at the end of 19th/beginning of 20th century. Guess some places stand still while others romp ahead. Lucky you to have been able to visit and enjoy such experiences and food. I’ll just need to enjoy it through you. Thank you.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Dorothy. Yes, Japan is kind of timeless. Very modern on one hand and super attached to traditions on the other… Truly special in every way…

  6. corinne Dray says:

    tu as vraiment du talent!corinne

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Tu es gentille! Je passerai te faire la bise vendredi. Je t’appellerai la veille pour être sûr que tu es là… 😉

  7. Colleen says:

    Your pictures truly make a person want to a visit a place they had never even previously thought of going to before!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Colleen! Yes, Japan is a special place. I don’t understand why people don’t think of it as a destination…

  8. skd says:

    Beautiful photography. Thanks for sharing .I love my trips to the fish market.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      😉

  9. I love sushi and hope to one day be able to taste them in Japan. What a thrill it would be for us to do so and now I’m hungry for sushi at 8am :). Your pictures are phenomenal, I’ve been talking about learning for years and received a canon T5i for Christmas so now it’s up to me to learn. Thank you for sharing your love of food and culture. I will continue to read.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Pascale! Just take a million pictures of the people and things you love the most. That’s how you’ll get good 😉

  10. Linda Duffin says:

    I love the fact that all of the people in your portraits are smiling and look so pleased to see you. Must be your Gallic charm! Gorgeous pictures, as ever, and I’m deeply envious of your sushi experience.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m sure you have access to amazing sushi in Australia Linda. As for the portraits, I just tell them my name is Brad Pitt. Never fails to make them laugh 😉

  11. I love your pictures and can’t wait to finally visit Japan myself! Thanks for your great post 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I promise you’ll love Japan. Truly underrated!!

  12. There are some awesome pictures there, particularly like the subject of the working side of the fish market. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Me as well. It felt very very authentic…

  13. Danika Maia says:

    I love sushi so much it could totally make me cry – have you ever watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi?
    And wow your photography is so incredible!!

    http://www.danikamaia.com

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Funny you’d mention it Danika. I watched it when i was there. I must say my sushi guy was much much more humble and fun to be around 😉

  14. lulu says:

    I got up very early to go to the fish market. What a place! Believe it or not, some of the best sushi I’ve ever had is at Suzuki’s in Rockland, Maine.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m not surprised. The diversity and quality of the seafood in Maine is so incredible…

  15. Francesca says:

    It is so sad that Tsukiji market is moving. Nothing will be the same. the old market with its surrounding lanes full of treasure and temptation cannot be captured in some modern, industrial complex in the outer suburbs. Great photos bringing back great memories.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are so right Francesca! The whole thing will be ruined…

  16. People and food are always so beautifully captured through your lens Stephane! A lovely post!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you dear Margot! Portraits are my favorite thing to take… I’d love to make a living of it someday… Did I ever tell you how much I love your name. So classy… But enough inapropriate flirting…😉 have a nice evening!

  17. Sandra says:

    I need Sushi after these photos. What a great experience.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      ☺️😉

  18. Amazing how your blog consistently makes me ravenous!!!!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’ve done my job then 😉

  19. So glad you’re back and with such a wonderful adventure as well. Just FYI, that first comment if from my husband. 🙂 Our daughter loved Japan and the food.

    janet

    1. Whoops! My husband’s comment is actually the one that follows mine, from “billgncs.” 🙂

    2. My French Heaven says:

      You guys are natural born travelers aren’t you 😉

      1. I grew up traveling, although only in the US. I’d do more if we could get more time off and had more money. 🙂 Our girls came by it naturally! 🙂 We’d like to visit Japan someday, too.

  20. billgncs says:

    my daughter who spent several months in Japan told me that the 7-11 stores have these little cucumber sandwiches which are close to perfection. Funny how different places surprise us.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I know! 7-11 also have great to go yakitori and other delicious sandwiches. They are everywhere. They also have some of the only ATMs that will accept international Visa cards… What would we do without 7-11 ? 😉

  21. When service and excellence at another restaurant impresses a chef, we know it must be a good place!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      😉

  22. Stunning photos – what an incredible place to visit!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It really is. I hope you go one day Rachel 🙂

  23. ladyredspecs says:

    As always I find your photo images like works of art. I’m a sushi fan too and while we have wonderful Japanese food in Melbourne, to eat any food at it’s source always heightens the experience. I’m just a tad envious!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are so right! Eating specialty foods on location always feels more special…

  24. Thank you for sharing your trip with us, with these wonderful photos! 🙂

  25. Stacey says:

    I don’t care what,when, where, and how you write and how you photograph, it is always beautiful, interesting and entertaining. Your articles are sheer pleasure! Thankyou!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you so much Stacey! It’s people like you who make it all worthwhile!!!

  26. Andy Thompson says:

    Great post and fab photos, now I’m feeling very hungry

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Good! Mission accomplished then!

  27. Sarah Jane says:

    Thank you for sharing your trip to Japan with us. I’ve loved reading your posts and seeing your photographs about it. I’m always amazed and inspired by your excellent photography! My husband and I love sushi. Although we have a really excellent sushi restaurant here owned by a Japanese man – one of the best I’ve ever been to, I can only imagine how great it would be to actually eat at one in Japan.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m glad you liked the series Sarah Jane😊😊

  28. Steve says:

    Fortunately, human memory does tend to fade over time and I am sure you will once again be able to enjoy sushi outside Japan. Another trick of memory however, is that it idealizes and magnifies great experiences, so that while you will be able to enjoy sushi once again it will never match that “one great moment”. Even if you have it in japan again, by the way!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You may very well be right my friend. Next time, you and I need to experience it together. You are the only man I know who would apreciate the experience to the fullest…

      1. Steve says:

        Ah yes, you know my philosophy well: If it’s worth doing…it’s worth doing tom excess! But Japan may be a bit far….perhaps New York?

        1. My French Heaven says:

          New York is my favorite place in the world. If there is a sushi place outside of Japan as good as this one was, it has got to be in Manhattan😜

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