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Tsukiji Fish Market: Inside The World’s Largest Wholesale Fish Market

If there’s one thing you should do when you’re in Tokyo, it’s visit the Tsukiji Fish Market.  As the world’s largest wholesale fish market, it handles over 2,000 tons of marine products daily!  If you’re not averse to waking up before the crack of dawn, you can also check out the tuna auctions.  Only 120 people are admitted to the auction and visitors have to start registering at 5am – if it’s a busy day and you’re there late, there’s always the possibility that you might not get in.

Mr. T and I were all for checking out the tuna auctions but since we had planned to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market the day after we arrived in Tokyo, truth be hold, we were way too jetlagged to wake up that early (he said we’d have to get up at 3am in order to get there by 4am to wait in line… uh, that totally conflicts with my beauty sleep).  Since I didn’t do my research before visiting the market, I didn’t realize that the auction area was separate from the wholesale market.  For shame!  I thought I’d see huge car-sized pieces of tuna just lying around post-auction, but since the tuna auction was separate from the wholesale area, the monstrous slabs of tuna were few and far between.  No matter, just strolling through the bustling market was a treat in itself!

I’ve never seen so much fish in one area!  Or uni.  Or octopus.  Mr. T got hungry just walking around, but I was more intrigued by the blatant slaughtering of sealife that was happening in front of my eyes.  The vendors would take live fish and eel from a tank, swiftly slash the animal behind its gills, and then insert a long wire into its mouth and violently jerk the wire up and down…. we assumed to clean the fish perhaps?  Either way it was ghastly to witness especially since the fish were flapping around the whole time completely unaware of its fate.  I know it’s Japan and I know it’s all about sushi here, but still.  It was sad to watch.

(This merchant is inserting the wire into the eel’s mouth.)

(Now he’s ready to swiftly slide the wire up and down.)

Aside from the slaughtering of fish, it was incredible just to witness all the activity at the warehouse, dodging the trucks and scooters that zip by you often and always without warning (you really need to be careful there), and imagining which restaurants were going to get shipments from this market that day.  Back in the U.S., it’s definitely a selling point for any japanese restaurant to boast that its fish is delivered from the Tsujiki Fish Market so it was just crazy to be standing there at the hub of it all.

Interested in visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market?  Here’s some other useful information:

  • There’s no admission fee.
  • The subway station by the market is called “Tsukiji”.
  • Dress for the market!  The floors are wet.  Fish scales could be flying by you as vendors vigorously de-scale fish at their stations.
  • Beware of the men on the scooters and the trucks driving through the market. They are there to do their work and aren’t interested in slowing down for tourists in their way.
  • This is not the place to bring your luggage (there’s just not the space for it – it is a warehouse, after all).
  • This is not the place to bring kids.
  • You could spend a good 1-2 hours just roaming the market.  Aside from the fish market, there’s also an outside market to check out with fresh veggies and fruits and random household goods (like knives).
  • Make sure you visit while you’re hungry!  Some of the freshest sushi is available at the nearby restaurants that border the market.

 

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Julie McNamee - June 12, 2012 - 1:32 pm

I too would’ve drawn a line at getting up 1t 3! Great photos – thank you.

Just Wanderlust - June 12, 2012 - 9:23 pm

Thanks, Julie! haha, 3am is kind of early to see a fish auction and the public transportation isn’t open at that time in Tokyo making it even harder to get to Tsukiji!

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Eva Hamori - June 14, 2012 - 10:06 am

I love markets and make a point of visiting them where ever we end up.
I love how different countries have a totally different feel to their markets, and always an experience we walk away full and learning something.

I believe if you really want to visit a country and know the people it is a must do.

Just Wanderlust - June 14, 2012 - 7:14 pm

That’s such a great point, Eva. I’ve never even thought of markets that way when I travel (I usually just walk through them to people-watch and see whatever knick-knacks are on display), but you’re so right!

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