The Tsukiji Market, officially known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, should be top of any food lover’s list when you travel to Japan. Actually, anyone will get a buzz out of seeing the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world in full swing.
You’ll need to get up early to experience this extraordinary pre-dawn trading frenzy, but the stats say it all… it’s astounding:
* Over 15,000 people work in the fish market.
* Another 20,000 visit to buy the fantastic range of fresh seafood that is on offer 6 days a week.
* 400-500 different varieties of seafood are on offer at any one time. With the seasonal nature of some fish it means over 2,000 different types are available over the course of a year.
* The largest yellow fin tuna ever offered for sale weighed over 600kg (1322 pounds).
* 1 million USD has been spent on a single tuna at auction.
* 2,800 ton is sold each day totaling around 6 billion USD each and every year.
* Up to 17,000 trucks are required to transport the seafood produce each day!
Over 12 million people will eat something each day that is sold at Tsukiji market that very morning, which is nearly 10 percent of the entire Japanese population.
The history of the Japanese fish market dates back to the 16th century, but since 1935 Tsukiji has operated on this site, about 10 minutes drive from Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district.
Tsukiji is a mini town with its own post office, restaurants, sushi knife stores, museum and even a library, but first and foremost it’s an incredibly busy workplace that’s totally dedicated to trading fresh seafood!
Given the concentration of fishmongers, chefs, and businessmen just to name a few, theirs is a huge concentration of raw (excuse the pun) talent here. All of this culminates in some of the freshest and best seafood you’ll ever try.
In order to really take advantage of this rare food opportunity, start talking with the chefs and the produce sellers. Find out who’s there every morning and who knows how to buy the freshest and best produce. Follow these people back to their restaurant/street stall/shops and eat the food they prepare!
By taking the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local food culture, you’re going to ensure that you find the best sources for food and potentially find out a secret hotspot the locals want to keep to themselves.
Keep in mind that when visiting, the busiest time of year is roughly from the start of December until just after mid-January. Due to this, the Tsukiji Fish Market doesn’t allow tourists to watch the tuna auctions in the morning so that there isn’t a disruption to business. While this can be disappointing and may make you reconsider your travel dates, the rest of the market will still be open to tourists during this time.
Regardless of when you decide to go, the number of visitors who can watch the tuna auction is limited to 120 per day. It’s no wonder that people start lining up before 5am on busy days.
Apart from the auction area, there are other areas worth visiting. This includes the wholesale area, which is also closed off to tourists before 9am to keep the area running smoothly. The most arguably appropriate area for tourists is the Tsukiji outer market. This market is more suited to tourists with small retail shops and restaurants providing the majority of attractions. Furthermore, if you decide you’d like to buy produce, the portions are far smaller and manageable than the wholesale market.
If all of this seems like a bit much to organise or the language barrier might get in the way, why not take a food tour in Japan with one of the friendly locals as your guide instead.