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Tsukiji Fish Market

by Philip Greenspun, 2000

Start your tour of the Tokyo Central Wholesale Market (colloquially "Tsukiji Fish Market") on at 0530 (Monday through Saturday) during the tuna auction in the inner market. Huge frozen fish carcasses are sold by lively auctioneers and their clipboard-toting assistants.

Once sold, the fish are marked with the name of the buyer.

At some point, the heads get either chopped off with a huge axe or sawed off with a circular saw.

Once the whole fish are sold to wholesalers, they go back to their stalls within the market to divide up the carcass into filets to sell to sushi markets.

The stalls within the market also sell every other kind of fresh--or live--seafood:

You can buy handmade knives in the outer market, or, if you've developed an appetite for raw fish, grab some sushi in one of the many little restaurants:

Getting there: Don't go on Sunday when the market is closed. Take a taxi if you want to arrive really early. Otherwise, the Tsukiji station on the Hibiya subway line will get you within a 5-minute walk.

Readers' Comments

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Warren Sheng , November 13, 2000; 07:52 A.M.

My family and I visited Tsukiji Fish Market--which is the largest in the world--when we visited Tokyo in the summer of 1999. It was the most interesting highlight of our trip (and it's free). I took only a few photos e.g. the ice making machine and the huge piles of polystyrene boxes. You will need a powerful flashgun.

Watch out for the fast moving motorcycle porters in case you or your children are hit by a scooter and 1 ton of tuna fish.

We got there early on one of the earliest Metro trains. After two hours of walking around, there was not much else to see. Couldn't find the cheap sushi place so went to McDonalds instead for breakfast. This enabled us to kill time before the other shops started opening up.

Ken Schwarz , December 14, 2000; 12:33 A.M.

Tsujiki Fish Market is closed on alternate Wednesdays as well as every Sunday. Sushi fanatics will tell you that it's best to avoid eating sushi in Japan on Wednesdays, on the grounds that you risk getting the Tuesday leftovers.

If you want to try sushi inside the market itself, I recommend Daiwa Sushi. The shop is divided into two neighborhing stalls in the rows of shops on the side of the market facing the National Cancer Center. The fish is as fresh as it gets, if not as refined as the most expensive you can find in Tokyo. Be prepared for 30 minute wait in line if you come after 10AM. Best to avoid the rush (and fellow tourists), so get there early for an excellent meal, and enjoy a feast of sushi for breakfast. Everyone else eating at that hour will be winding up a night of hard work in the market with dinner and a beer before heading home. Prices will run from Y3000-Y7000/person, depending on how much and which items you eat. (There are no menus, no posted prices.)

David Hedley , March 03, 2001; 12:28 P.M.

My office was just across the road from the market in my last year in Japan. The market area is much more than a fish market ; there is a broad range of shops and stalls selling superb fruit and vegetables, (many of which are unique to Japan), knives, ceramics, etc. Many of the sushi restaurants are superb, as are the noodle stalls. There is also a good fugu fish restaurant across from the market near Kachidoki-bashi.

Across the Sumida river is the area that was firebombed by the Americans during the second world war causing the deaths of thousands of Japanese.

Tsukiji is about 10-15 minutes walk from Ginza, and in the same road (Harumi-dori) as the main kabuki theatre. There are some interesting camera shops in Ginza, but you really need to go to Yodobashi in Shinjuku in order to find one of the finest camera shops in the world. Excellent value also, particularly for large and medium format gear.

Lawrence Title , June 11, 2002; 11:37 P.M.

Definitely, Tsukiji should be on your list of stops if you are a sushi lover. However, if you want to see the fresh tuna auction you need to get to auction area at 0530 h sharp, as the fresh tuna was auctioned off in less than ten minutes. The frozen tuna auction lasts much longer. Available light is limited at that hour, and I should have probably pushed Provia 400F 2 stops in order to take handheld pictures with my Hasselblad. This was shot wide open with a 80/2.8 using Provia 400F pushed to 800. Although I love sushi, looking at the size of the tuna and realizing how we are likely over fishing the ocean, I was ready to become a vegetarian by 0600 h.

RAUL DE LA CRUZ , February 22, 2007; 10:19 P.M.

Peru and its 25 regions

Raul De La Cruz: I visited Tsukiji Fish Market on July, 2001. I had to wake-up at 4:00am to be there before 5:30am. Really, this fish market is impressive because the organization, the cleaning, the special way for fish treatment. I never thought see some body buy one tuna fish for the extraordinary price of 10,000 US dollars I learn much about this business and I hope introduce it in Peru, my country... should be... should be.

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