Tsukiji Market   築地市場

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The famous auction of bluefin tuna auction is the largest Tsukiji market currently.

The famous auction of bluefin tuna auction at Tsukiji Market.

Located in Roppongi, Tsukiji is the largest fish market in the world.

Located in Roppongi, Tsukiji is the largest fish market in the world.

Escapade to the belly of a "Toky-una"

As Tokyo falls asleep, Tsukiji comes alive. Ginza may be on standby, but Tsukiji lights up. Every night the largest fish market in the world repeats its frenetic food dance to a wild "tuna".

As of 3am, on the 23-acre grounds of Tsukiji Market, sellers are rushing to unload cargo ships and trucks. All are working hard so that the produce will be ready by 5:30am, to begin the daily ceremony of tuna auctions, the top fish in Japan. Forty thousand pieces will be sold, one every three seconds. The ritual has its formalities, the professional buyers touch the tuna, while the sellers move around between the fish that are lined up on hundreds of wooden pallets.

At the auction

Tsukiji, literally "land returned to the sea", gives fishmongers, restaurant owners and intrigued tourists the chance to mingle. Established in the Chuo district since 1935, it has since become the largest fish market in the world, selling more than four hundred different species.

At around 6am, when the auction has finished, wholesalers cut fish in the main hall. Further on, others are sawing frozen fish, often they need several people to cut it. There are already more curious visitors. The frenzy inside the market continues until eight o'clock. The pieces are sold to retailers, to be transported across the archipelago.

Tsukiji Life, video hokinskywalker.

Supervised visit

After the auction, focus shifts. In nearby alleys, vegetable and speciality stalls and above all sushi restaurants, sushiya, attract hoards of salarymen and food lovers, hungry for a savory early morning breakfast. The day starts in style!

Tsukiji has certain rules for visitors. Everyone must comply with one requirement: Only the first one hundred and twenty visitors can attend the tuna auction, and must remain discreet. Inside the market, the sellers and carts have the priority, and it's imperative not to disrupt their work and of course, not to touch the merchandise. But don't hesitate to go, the early morning start is worth it, as this "showcase of the Japan gourmand" celebrates a way of life.

The big move

For several years a project to move the market has been in the works, considering the dilapidation and small size of the current site. In March 2012, the Tokyo Assembly voted to transfer the market to the Toyosu area of the Koto district from 2014. The transfer was pushed back to 2016 because of contaminated soil in Toyosu, which requires further testing. The price to pay for such a move? One hundred billion yen - cheaper, however, that the cost of renovating the current location - and for a space two times bigger than Tsukiji. 

Tsukiji is still breathing, but living on borrowed time.

UPDATEThe inner market of Tsukiji Market closed on October 6th, 2018 and moved to the new site in Toyosu where it has reopened as Toyosu Market. Note that Tsukiji's outer market did not close, and remains in business.

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