Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo (just east of Ginza), and is a major attraction for foreign visitors. The market is located near the Tsukijishijō Station on the Toei Ōedo Line and Tsukiji Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.

The market opens most mornings (except Sundays, holidays and some Wednesdays - check the schedule for exact dates) at 3:00 a.m. 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 entrance is not that obvious, but there are crude signs on the side that explain the "rules" before you enter.

There are two distinct sections of the market as a whole. The "outer market," known as jōgai-shijō, is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood, and many restaurants, especially sushi restaurants. The main market area is open at 9:00am to tourists (most of the shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon).  Keith and I woke up early to explore the market.  Here are my pictures from the "outer market."

Alley entrance.
Crowds form quick for fresh sushi.
Do you spot the wasabi in the upper right?
Lots of pickled products.

I didn't know edamame grew like that! 

After navigating through the narrow alleyways of the "outer market," you can explore the "inner market." Known as jōnai-shijō, the inner area is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place, and where licensed wholesale dealers known as oroshi gyōsha (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls.  The actual auction is restricted mainly to buyers, however small groups of tourists are accommodated on a limited basis.  Those who wish to see the auction, have to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center (Fish Information Center) at the Kachidoki Gate, starting from 5:00am on a first-come, first-serve basis (may start earlier on busy days). More details on visiting the tuna auction are found in various guidebooks.  Here are my pictures from the "inner market."

The inspectors are prepared with their rubber boots.
Don't get in their way!

Watch out - some areas are quite bloody.

This inner fish market area is bustling with wholesalers running or driving their product to their customer. I really felt in the way at times. Also, wear decent footwear as many fish scales, guts, blood, and parts are strewn about the ground. If you are squeamish at all, do not go in the "inner market" fish stalls and stick to the "outer market" vendors instead.

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