Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場
Technically, its official name it “The Tokyo Metropolitan Wholesale Market”. But everyone just refers to it as the Tsukiji fish market. I’ve been wanting to visit for years especially since the government is planning on moving the market to a new location by 2012. Something to do with the aged buildings of the current site. Probably has to do with the current site being too small for the size of the operation it has become.
Tsukiji is the largest wholesale seafood market in the world. Seafood from Tsukiji gets shipped daily all over the world. Photos and video can not convey the amount of activity that goes on in the place. Unfortunately, due to a history of ignorant tourists combined with the busiest time of the year, the auction area was closed to the public when I went but there was still plenty to see in the rest of the market.
The majority of the action is over by around 9:00am in the wholesale section of the market so I made sure I was there before 7:00. Had the auction area been open, I would have been there by 6:00. Honestly, I only saw a mere fraction of what there is to see. The market is broken down into inner and outer markets. The inner market (jonai shijou) is where the auctions and the processing of the fish is done. In the wholesaler’s section alone, there are close to 1,000 stalls. Any type of seafood you can imagine is sold in that area, and quite possibly some types you can’t imagine. The outer market (jogai shijou) has a combination of restaurants, kitchen supply stores and other types of shops.
There was one thing I noticed about Tsukiji and that’s the smell – there isn’t one. I walk by some of the small fishseller markets here in Hong Kong and I almost have to hold my nose but a place as huge as Tsukiji, dealing with seafood and it doesn’t smell like seafood, that’s pretty amazing. Apparently it has to do with the way the dealers use sterilized seawater rather than freshwater. It would be nice if the fish sellers in Hong Kong would follow suit.
Of course I couldn’t go to Tsukiji and not eat some sort of seafood. In the Uogashi Yokocho area (literally, “riverside fish market”) just outside the inner market I bypassed the lineups outside some of the really overpriced sushi places and headed straight to a little place which was recommended in the Japanese culture magazine, Kateigaho. Apparently, Edogawa is a favourite of the folk who work in the market. When I arrived, there were only two other folk occupying the place. Aside from the food, the other highlight was when the Obasan who owns the place chased away a couple of noisy tourists who couldn’t decide what they wanted to do about eating there. Rather than discussing it quietly, they proceeded to shout at each other between shops. So, Obasan said, “No, no, no. Not this time!” and closed the door on them. Brilliant.