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Tsukiji Central Fish Market

Tokyo Travel Blog

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the tsukiji central fish market main gate at 5 am
On an impulse, Jonathan, Keri, and I decided that Friday night would be the time we would go to Tsukiji Central Fish Market. Marked by several travel guides as one of Tokyo's best attractions, this was an event that had been at the top of my to-do list for some time. Needless to say, I was not disappointed in any way.

The market is the hub for all the seafood that has been fished out of the sea before it gets redistributed all across Japan. Described as the "stock market" of fish, this market deals in a third of all the fish consumed in Japan - over 2,500 tons a day. Trucks come and go through its main gates, while bicycles, motorcyles, mopeds, rickshaws, and motorized delivery carts race around hauling styrofoam boxes full of fresh fish.
the outer market where second wholesalers sell live and dead fish directly
It feels like the market is on the verge of catastrophe at any given moment, when in actuality it is a most organized and efficient system of buying and selling. Apparently, the fish is brought in from the boats and sold directly to seven wholesale companies at the market. From here, there is a much larger pool of second level of wholesalers that buy from the seven wholesalers and that specialize in a particular type or region of fish. These vendors have their own, allotted selling space within the outer market of the central market. Here, the stalls sell the fish to retailers, restaurants, and the public directly. The stalls themselves change rotation every four years to keep the buying fair.

Also surrounding the outer market are several shops selling anything from umbrellas and boots, to sushi, to scales and ice picks.
the tuna auctioning floor
Perhaps the most interesting part of this trip was the tuna auction. Located in a warehouse along the river, frozen tuna the size of large suitcases are layed out on the floor in rows upon rows where they are auctioned off at around 5-6a to commercial buyers. Once a tuna has been sold, it is tagged and thrown onto a rickshaw where it is then taken to one of the vending stalls in the outer market. There it is cut up with huge blades and arranged over ice for the next buyers. The best tuna sells for over 10,000 yen (100 USD) per kilo.

The pace and the action at the market is unlike anything I had ever seen (sadly, it makes the Pike Place Market in Seattle look like child's play). Wherever we went, we were always in the way. Yet, the market remains open to the public and I can tell that these guys have well gotten used to foreigners wandering aimlessly through the crowds of professional sellers, buyers, and fishermen.
They won't look twice at you, and if you're in their way, you'd better watch out because they don't have the time to care if you happen to slip and fall.

We went on the right day. It began pouring rain at about 11pm on Friday night when we decided that this would be a good time to stay out all night and go to the market. Because the activity at the market starts at 5am and the trains don't start running until after 5, we had to stay out all night to make it to the market in time. Staying out all night is never an easy task, even in Tokyo. We spent the night at a karaoke bar, an AMPM convenience store, two different bars, and wandering the streets of Shimbashi. The rain didn't let up once and it was a fairly long walk to the market at 4:30a.

We finally made it though and once we got caught up in the activity of the market, our fatigue wore off and we continued our journey, running on adrenaline.
at the selling stalls inside the outer market
The sights, the smells, and the sounds were overwhelming; it is amazing to think that this would be the regular everyday work for thousands of people.

By the time 7a came around, we had been through the entire market and decided to stop into one of the stalls for fresh sushi. The restaurants that reside inside the market are said to have the freshest sushi in the world. At one of the more popular restaurants, people had started lining up at 5am to get in and eat the sushi. We waited over half an hour to get a spot at another sushi bar where we ordered the tokubetsu-jou-nigiri, or extra special sushi. It was the best sushi I've ever had and probably ever will have. With our stomachs full, our senses on overload, and our bodies on the verge of collapse, we wandered back to the station to return home around 8a. It had been a long day, but it was worth the trip, the time, and the energy.
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the tsukiji central fish market ma…
the tsukiji central fish market m…
the outer market where second whol…
the outer market where second who…
the tuna auctioning floor
the tuna auctioning floor
at the selling stalls inside the o…
at the selling stalls inside the …
the outer market
the outer market
there was whale meat, i didnt see…
there was whale meat, i didn't se…
some of the cheaper tuna
some of the cheaper tuna
there is a small shrine located on…
there is a small shrine located o…
keri and jonathan in good spirits …
keri and jonathan in good spirits…
the sushi stall that we ate at
the sushi stall that we ate at
we were really happy to have sushi…
we were really happy to have sush…
the freshest sushi in the world
the freshest sushi in the world
On the floors of the tuna auction…
This runner is carrying several l…
The tuna auction is one of the bi…
Tokyo
photo by: maka77