Tsukiji Fish Market

March 8th, 2010
Tsukiji Fish Market

The Tsukiji fish market is one of the busiest and chaotic places I’ve ever been.  Not knowing the language, and it not being the most tourist-friendly place (i.e. no signs), I was left to wander the market and try to figure it out on my own. I have to admit, it felt like I was walking through the back door of some large operation, not sure if I was in the right place or not.

The place struck me as less of an actual market and more of a distribution hub where major resellers get their daily fish.  The quantity of fish that moves through this place is simply incredible.  I was there a little late, but you can easily tell how this is the world’s largest fish market.  The market consists of many small cells dedicated to the various stores, restaurants, etc. that have some form of daily business concern here.  Each cell would be essentially their store or hub of buying/selling/processing seafood.  I found the majority of these cells to be more like work spaces than a place one could actually buy their offerings, but perhaps this is due to my lack of fluency in Japanese and not being able to read their signs.  The impression I got, however, was that most of these people were rushing to get fish packed and shipped, than trying to hock it to passers by (which were few).

In the photo above, workers are cutting frozen tuna into more manageable pieces to be sold for sushi, I’m assuming.  I unfortunately missed the tuna auction that occurs daily at 5:30am, but was lucky to find some frozen tuna still in the area.  I think most of the tuna had been processed and shipped to stores hours before I got there (around 10:00am–I got a little lost finding the place).  The tuna are frozen solid, and are essentially large blocks of ice.  The process seems to be to cut the tuna into quarters using the bandsaw, and then the bones are hacked out using an axe (which is what the man in the red shirt is doing).  Fresh tuna (which I couldn’t find anywhere) are cut using long knives (almost like swords).  I would have liked to have seen this, but either I couldn’t find it or I was too late and missed it.

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One Response to “Tsukiji Fish Market”

  1. Will says:

    Excellent shot and write up, really good insight into the place and also very topical at the moment as there is talk of greatly reducing blue fin tuna fishing so that stocks can be repleted as they have been over fished. People in Japan aren’t happy about it.

    Yeah, you have to get there very early to see the auctions. I’ve done it a couple of times over the years, you either have to drive there very early, or stay in a cafe nearby, so you always get there feeling very tired. The early morning is more chaotic, little carts move around really quickly, it’s kind of dangerous actually, the workers aren’t really happy about the tourists hanging about and some don’t like to slow down and accidents happen a fair bit…ouch.

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