Some might wonder why I’m writing about Tsukiji, especially since its a fish market; a HUGE one.
In fact, it’s the BIGGEST wholesale fish and seafood market in the world.
Tsukiji fish market has become popular with both tourists and locals alike. Tourist usually come here to witness the amazing auctions that goes on in this particular market, auctions where auctioneers enter a trance like state while they take bids from bidders!
As for locals, the reason for coming here is to taste the FRESHEST Sashimi in Tokyo, No; The world.
Today, we are coming to Tsukiji for breakfast, early in the morning!
Tsukiji Market is a large wholesale market for fish, fruits and vegetables in central Tokyo. It is the most famous of over ten wholesale markets that handle the distribution of fish, meat, produce and flowers in metropolitan Tokyo. Tsukiji Market is best known as one of the world’s largest fish markets, handling over 2,000 tons of marine products per day.
The sight of the many kinds of fresh fish and other seafood and the busy atmosphere of scooters, trucks, sellers and buyers hurrying around, make Tsukiji Market a major tourist attractions. In fact, the numbers of visitors have increased so much over recent years, that they have become a problem to the course of business, as the aging market’s infrastructure was not anticipated to serve as a tourist spot.
Tsukiji Market consists of an inner market where most of the wholesale business and the famous tuna auctions are taking place, and an outer market whose retail shops and restaurants carter to the public. A few restaurants are also found in the inner market. In order to avoid interference with business, different rules should be followed when visiting the different areas of the market.
Visiting the tuna auction
The number of visitors to the tuna auction is limited to 120 per day, the maximum number which the market’s infrastructure can accommodate. Tourists, who wish to see the auction, have to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center at the Kachidoki Gate, starting from 5:00am on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A first group of 60 visitors will be admitted to the auction between 5:25am and 5:50am, while a second group of 60 visitors will be admitted between 5:50am and 6:15am
Expect that the maximum number of visitors is likely to be exceeded on busy days, and that some later arriving visitors may not be able to see the auction. Successful applicants will be able to view the auction from a designated visitor area.
It is not allowed to view the auction from anywhere else or to use flash photography or to interfere with the business action in any other way.
Visiting the wholesale area
The wholesale area consists of hundreds of small stands in a large, crowded hall, where buyers and sellers hurry along narrow lanes with their carts and trucks. It is an exciting area for tourists to view and photograph the fish and the action, but it is also an area where tourists are likely to interfere with the professionals working there.
Consequently, in order to prevent accidents and interference with business, tourists were not allowed into the wholesale area before 9am, when the peak of the business activities take place. Even when visiting after 9am, tourists were asked to refrain from bringing any luggage into the market and to be constantly alert of what is happening around them to avoid blocking traffic.
Visiting other areas of the market
Instead of visiting the inner market, tourists are encouraged to visit Tsukiji’s outer market instead, which is located just adjacent to the inner market and caters to the public.
The outer market consists of a few blocks of small retail shops and restaurants crowded along narrow lanes. Here you can find all sorts of food related goods, knives and fresh seafood and produce for sale in smaller, rather than wholesale portions.
A visit to Tsukiji Market is best combined with a fresh sushi breakfast or lunch at one of the local restaurants. There are restaurants both in the inner and outer market area, which are typically open from 5:00am in the morning to around noon or early afternoon.
The market opens most mornings (except Sundays and holidays) at 3:00 am. with the arrival of the products by ship, truck and plane from all over the world. Particularly impressive is the unloading of tons of frozen tuna. The auction houses then estimate the value and prepare the incoming products for the auctions. The buyers, who are licensed to participate in the auctions, also inspect the fish to estimate which fish they would like to bid for and at which price.
The auctions start around 5:20 am. Bidding can only be done by licensed participants. These bidders include wholesalers who operate stalls in the marketplace and other licensed buyers who are agents for restaurants, food processing companies, and large retailers.
The auctions usually end around 7:00am. Afterward, the purchased fish is either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next destination or on small carts and moved to the many shops inside the market. There the shop owners cut and prepare the products for retail. In case of large fish, for example tuna and swordfish, cutting and preparation is elaborate.
Frozen tuna and swordfish are often cut with large band saws, and fresh tuna is carved with extremely long knives, more than over a meter in length; called oroshi-hōchō, maguro-bōchō, or hanchō-hōchō.
The market is the busiest between 5:30 and 8:00 am, and the activity declines significantly afterward. Many shops start to close around 11:00 am., and the market closes for cleaning around 1:00 pm.
Tourists may visit the market daily between 5 a.m. and 6:15 am and watch the proceedings from a designated area, except during periods when it is closed to the public. Because of an increase in sightseers and the associated problems they cause, the market had previously banned all tourists from the tuna auctions on several occasions.
After the latest ban that ended in May 2010, the tuna auctions have been re-opened to the public with a maximum limit of 140 visitors per day on a first-come, first-serve basis. Visitor entry into the interior wholesale markets was prohibited until after 9 AM.
A few more general rules for visiting Tsukiji Market
Since Tsukiji Market is a site where serious business is conducted, it is important for visitors not to interfere with the action by adhering to the following additional rules:
||Do not enter areas restricted to authorized personnel!
||Do not obstruct traffic!
||Do not bring large bags or suitcases into the market!
||Do not enter the market in high heeled shoes or sandals!
||Do not bring small children or pets!
||Do not smoke in the market!
||Do not touch anything!