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Japan: Tsukiji Central Fish Market

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Tsukiji Central Fish Market | Japan | Asia

[Visited: December 2009]

To see Tsukiji, the largest fish market of the world, it is important to arrive early. I realized I was on the very first subway train that rainy morning, and while others were going home after spending the night in Shibuya, I had just woken up in a capsule hotel and was on my way to Tsukiji. I knew that entering would not be easy, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. Tsukiji is the present day version of a fish market that has been around since the 16th century, even though Tsukiji itself was not established until 1935. When I approached the market, I saw signs that entering would not be possible in this season, but I was determined to see it anyway. At one entrance, I saw the guard left his office, and I did not hesitate at this opportunity and entered.

Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Washing and cutting tuna at Tsukiji market

As soon as I was inside the huge area of Tsukiji fish market, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size, but even more than that, by the continuous rush of people: vendors, porters, men driving carts around, loaded with boxes and fish. If I was still a little sleepy just before, I was wide awake by now. Being very careful not to knock over anything, I moved on, into the bowels of Tsukiji. I was looking for the tuna auction that is on between 5am and 6.30 - but got caught up in the hustle of the market stalls, the carts, and always trying not to be an obstacle to anyone. It seemed useless to try and ask for the auction, and I decided to continue walking around, hoping to hit the auction. Tsukiji is not only the biggest fish market, but also one of the largest wholesale food markets in the world: a little less than 2500 tonnes of fish are traded here daily.

Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Frozen fish at stall in Tsukiji market

Meanwhile, just browsing the seemingly endless rows of stalls where I saw Japanese men cut up enormous tuna fish with their oroshi hacho, a specialized very long knife made for the task, cooling boxes holding all kinds of sea creatures, most of them lying on ice cubes. Some fish were deep frozen, and only few fishes were actually swimming around in aquaria. The narrow aisles between the stalls combined with the bag on my back made that I had to tread carefully, and I noticed once more how friendly the Japanese were even here: no one ever tried to push me aside. I ended up never finding the auction, but I am determined to do so on a next visit to Tsukiji. Apart from the fish market itself, this is also a great area to eat the freshest sushi you can find, and shop for other goods like vegetables and specialized Japanese knives - plenty of reasons for a future visit!

Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Tsukiji market is busy with carts
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Fresh lobster at Tsukiji fish market
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Tsukiji fish market seen from the inside
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Cutting up a tuna with an orochi hocho at Tsukiji market
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Cutting up a fish with a baby on her back: Japanese market woman
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Crabs at Tsukiji market
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Close-up of mussels at Tsukiji fish market
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Tuna waiting to be processed at Tsukiji market
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Finely cut tuna at a stall in Tsukiji market
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Stall with octopus at Tsukiji fish market
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Fish waiting for their final destiny
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Close-up of pink fish at Tsukiji market
Picture of Tsukiji Central Fish Market (Japan): Buying fresh fish at a stall near Tsukiji market

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