A sushi chef doing his thing at Tsukiji
We’ve all seen the cooking shows where the Japanese guys cut up fish into little delicate pieces with big scary knives and somehow serve up heaping plates of beautiful sushi in under 10 minutes. That’s not fake; those guys exist! But before the fish can fly from the chopping board and into our waiting mouths, where in the world do they come from? Of course the ocean, but after that! I’ve got the answer: The Tsukiji Market in Tokyo!
Like fish much?
Even before reaching the main market, it’s clear how big of a deal fish are in this district. Hotels and businesses will even go so far as to paint them on the sides of their buildings just to support the trade. The market has become a tourist mecca, which is great for business…but not so great if you actually work there.
This young foodie has the right idea
Walking through the market’s surrounding shops treats you to a bevvy of sights, smells and tastes that any seafood lover would die for–you will get literally the freshest, tastiest seafood around, so I highly encourage you to visit! Foodies are welcome at Tsukiji.
I know they’re serious–but this is just too cute!
It’s the people who want to dig deeper, who want to venture into the market itself to see how the work is done (like me), that sometimes make things difficult. Of course, rather than telling people not to come outright, they just post cute little cartoons politely asking us not to get in the way. FYI, Japanese people go, too!
A fleet of fish buggies…
…and the terrible consequences of getting in their way!
Adventurous souls should get there at around 5 am. As you wipe your bleary eyes, you will first see an army of little vehicles shooting out of the tunnel where the market is, I guess to put up more fish and stuff. There are also signs telling us what might happen if we get in THEIR way, too! Seriously, who would bring a baby to a fish market?
“We have our top men working on it, Dr. Jones. Top. Men.”
Venturing ever deeper…
When you reach the market itself, it may seem at first like the last scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark–lots of crates, plenty of darkness and not a lot happening. But as you go deeper, you will begin to see some action.
Better than Wallstreet
“Excuse me…I’d like the LARGE tuna.”
One of the coolest things you can see, if you’re lucky, is a tuna auction. There’s nothing like watching a bunch of buyers haggling passionately over enormous fish that look for all the world like missiles! It might be better than the floor of the stock exchange.
Then, after money and fish change hands, it’s time to make the proverbial sausage! Those huge cutting boards are amazing. These two look a bit too nonchalant for my taste, though. Watch your hands in here, folks.
No pith…these octos are simply gorgeous
It’s a seafood cornucopia in here!
Of course, the bounty isn’t limited to tuna. You can see octopus (which may end up becoming a delicious treat like “tako-yaki”), shrimp, salmon, crabs, lobsters, oysters, eels–just about anything you can imagine! Some is reserved exclusively for buyers, but some is there to be bought by us. The Tsukiji Fish Market is fun and instructive, and can be the highlight of an adventurous Japan trip. Just remember that if somebody says, “Hey, I’m workin’ here!”, he’s probably not imitating Robert DeNiro.