I nearly walk by Aomori's Furukawa market on the first pass, expecting something akin to the cacophony of Tokyo's central wholesale fish market (known casually to most as Tsukiji). Sliding open the door to the squat building, however, I am assaulted with the not unwelcome scent of fresh seafood, an encouraging sign that I am in the right place. The ticket booth just inside the door is one more reassurance that this city on the tip of Japan's main island of Honshu still serves up to visitors the freshest fish market-to-table breakfast in the country.

In truth, we're arriving closer to the lunch hour but, thankfully, Aomori's market doesn't discriminate against late comers. A staff member accepts our proffered cash and passes back a book of tickets, while explaining the market's nokkedon system.

Unlike Tsukiji, where you either eat in the outer market or you gird up your bargaining loins for a chat with the buyers, Furukawa makes the process practically painless. One booklet (for ¥1,080) nets the diner 10 tickets. A single ticket is used to score a bowl of rice, the base for your breakfast, or brunch in our case. The remaining tickets are used to purchase portions of sashimi or even a few grilled options, all of which top the bowl of rice, becoming a DIY donburi.