Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tsukiji Fish Market

Angelica and I woke up at 5 in morning, because the fish magic happens early. This is the main reason I haven't been to this place before, despite thinking it was cool. The clock only hits 5 once a day as far as I'm concerned.

The Tsukiji Market covers a pretty large amount of area, so when the taxi dropped us off on the outskirts it wasn't immediately apparent where the action was. The tuna auction happens in a small window of time, so after a bit of aimless searching it was necessary to ask directions. One thing that is cool about the Tokyo tourist traps is that everyone is used to the presence of foreigners. What they aren't used to is a foreigner who can speak a bit of Japanese. Special attention because I am white and have a big nose is pretty lame, but a bit of attention because of my language ability is pretty cool. Once we were walking in the right direction, I could smell the fish long before I could see them.

My video begins with the prospective buyers checking out the fish before the auction. They swing little picks into the fish to determine its quality. Bells announce the start of the auction. It moves fast. Outside, I decided to follow one of the fish on its journey to deliciousness. The clip ends with a stall owner hacking the heck out of the fish with a sword.

"Why is a fish so easy to weigh? It has its own scales."

There was a full assortment of other creatures being sold at the market in a much less dramatic fashion.

Tsukiji is the largest fish market in the world and in 2003 sold $4.45 billion of fish, but according to this very enlightening Bloomberg article(here), its future is threatened by international competition. The market also sits on expensive land, which has developers licking their lips and the Tokyo city government planning to move the market by the year 2014. Today's best article understatement: "Some traders gently prod the flesh of the severed tail end with long, wooden-handled hooks".

I don't blame anyone for considering closing the market off to visitors. It is not a place for games. I thought I was being pretty careful and I had a couple of close calls with the fish carts criss-crossing everywhere. Many of the vehicles are motorized, and getting hit by one would not be good times. As far as licking the fish, thankfully I was able to contain my urges.

I returned to the hotel, ate the free breakfast, and then went back to sleep, in a complete reversal of protocol.


  1. I hope you didn't kiss any tuna.

  2. Unfortunately the tuna were several tongue lengths away from the roped off area.