Day 12 – Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji fish market (築地市場, Tsukiji shijō) The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, commonly known as Tsukiji fish market is located near the Tsukijishijō Station on the Toei Ōedo Line and Tsukiji Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line. There are two distinct sections of the market as a whole. The “inner market” (jonai shijo) is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls. The “outer market” (jogai shijo) is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood, and many restaurants, especially sushi restaurants. Most of the shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon, and in the inner market even earlier.

Via Wikipedia.

Brian and I woke early the morning after we got back from out independent travel to explore the Tsukiji Fish Market which we’d head was one of the most incredible in the world.  This is a great tourist attraction, especially around the tuna auctions:

Each of the tuna on the floor has a portion of the flesh cut open and pulled back to allow for those bidding to examine the grade of tuna to be bid on.  Then an auctioneer gets up and starts taking bids.

There were numerous bins of all different kinds of seafood, as one would expect.  This container held live crabs, about the size of a small football, in some sort of sawdust.  Everything was being packed in styrofoam for shipment to restaurants across the city.  I’d see small lorries around town unloading these everywhere, and had assumed they were food goods, but it was very interesting to see where they’d all originated from.

A lot of the seafood are still alive.  These containers each have different critters and are outfitted with air lines to aerate the water.  The Japanese food industry is so inextricably focused on live seafood that this isn’t a surprise.

These were a fascinating catch.  Originally I had thought the bins contained some sort of dust, like with the crabs,  but upon closer inspection I realized there were minute fish, no larger than a Neon Tetra in general size, although longer.  Later at the Miyama’s house, I noticed that they had a jar full of these fish sitting on the dinner table.  I inquired about them, and found out that they are a dried fish the people (often elderly) eat to supplement their diet with additional calcium.  I tried them, and they aren’t bad, they just taste like dried fish.  If you’re into that.

Once the tuna is purchased, it’s then trucked away on carts to the various stands around the market where individual proprietors butcher the meat for individual sale. While the picture here of the butcher with a knife is more romantic, most stations were cutting up the tuna with a bandsaw in a very efficient fashion.

All of the crustaceans were of the most magnificent order.  Huge crabs and lobsters, bigger than I’ve ever seen and some with species colorations I was unfamiliar with.

I would definitely recommend visiting the fish market to anyone that makes their way to Tokyo.  It’s fun to do the touristy things, but getting to delve below the surface of the city and the the intricate way truly unique things like this happen.


10 2009