The Tsukiji Fish Market

April 17, 2010

Tokyo’s Tsukiji wholesale fish market is many times larger than any other fish market in the world. It has three main functions. There is a tuna auction most mornings at 5:20 where mostly frozen and some fresh whole tuna carcasses are auctioned off. There is a loading area where buyers can load their trucks and there is a market where 900 licensed wholesalers sell fish to retailers, restaurants etc. (There is also an outer market with a wide variety of food and food related items for sale to individuals; you will see it in our next blogpost.) We saw primarily the third function. The second, loading and trucking, was mostly finished when we were there, but you will see some of it. I have never understood why the auction is thought to be so interesting, but had planned to find out when Linda and I went on April 9, 2010. But, as The Japan Times reported the day we left NYC:

The Tsukiji fish market will prevent sightseers from watching its popular frozen tuna auction from Thursday to May 8 because too many tourists have been obstructing the transactions, market officials said Tuesday. The visitors section of the auction is scheduled to reopen May 10, which falls on a Monday. Wholesale sections and eating areas in the Tokyo market will remain open, they said. On Monday morning more than 500 gawkers, mostly foreign, swarmed the visitors section, which has a capacity of only 70 to 80. The excessive numbers disrupted the day’s business, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government  said.

Knowing this, we didn’t arrive until 7:00, accompanied by our guide, Yumi. En route we walked through the outer market where everything has been prettied up for retail sale. In the Fish Market itself there is plenty of blood, slime and fish guts. The carcasses of frozen tuna look like ghosts. One has to be constantly alert not to be run down by the little powered carts which scoot around delivering fish. Tourists are tolerated in the wholesale section, but not appreciated.

 

Approaching the loading area on the left and the wholesale area on the right.

Smaller buyers loading.

Loading frozen tuna carcasses bought in that morning’s auction.

Linda enters the hurly burly of the wholesalers.

Preparing eels.

Crabs.

Cutting up a tuna with a big knife.

Above are classic scallops, but the big black ones below are also a type of scallop.

Surprisingly, after an hour here, we still had an appetite and went off to a sushi breakfast nearby.

5 Responses to “The Tsukiji Fish Market”

  1. Connie Buckley Says:

    Sorry, this doesn’t look all that exciting to me. I can almost smell the fish looking at the pictures. Maybe it’s one of those things you want to do “just once.”

    • Michael Says:

      Connie,
      Fresh fish are not always pretty, but they have no fishy smell. The only aroma in the market is a small one of diesel fuel.

      • Dennis Says:

        The smell I remember most from my visit 10+ years ago was from a furnace they used to melt down all of the bulky styrofoam packaging for disposal. Quite acrid. Is it still there – or are they “greener?”

  2. Christy Vance Says:

    Wow! How neat- we saw this market on a discovery channel show once and the boys remembered it after seeing these great pictures. What a cool place to be!

  3. Trine Says:

    This is awesome, Michael. Thank you so much for sharing all the photos and the description.

    Funny, when I was dining at Yasuda my second time, I sat next to a Japanese guy, very kind, but he did state how much the tourists are all over the fish market nowadays. 🙂 As he loved good food, he understood why, though 😉


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