Since we are in the land of sushi, we went to look at fish today. The Tokyo Tsukiji Fish and Seafood Market is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, and is one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind.
There are two sections: the inner market is the licensed wholesale portion, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish takes place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls. The outer market is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and many restaurants, especially sushi ones.
The market is amazingly huge and handles more than 400 different types of seafood and employs over 65,000 people. It is completely overwhelming to see the size of this warehouse along with the massive amount of seafood of every variety imaginable that’s processed through this facility. It makes you think of the number of people on this earth and the staggering amount of food that is necessary to feed us all.
The doors open at 3:00 a.m. with the arrival of the products by ship, truck, and plane from all over the world. The auction houses estimate the value of the incoming products, and then they prepare them for auction. The buyers also inspect the fish to estimate which fish they would like to bid for and at what price.
The auctions start at 5:20 a.m. and goes until 7:00am. Bidding can only be done by licensed wholesalers who operate stalls in the marketplace, agents for restaurants, food processing companies, and large retail outlets. There is a long line of tourists hoping to get into the auction, but they only allow 120 tourists in each day, so chances are slim that you will get in. If you go at 8am, you will still see a lot. We didn’t get to see, but I borrowed this photo from the internet so you could see what happens at the morning auctions.
The purchased fish is then either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next destination or on small carts and moved to the many shops inside the market. There the shop owners cut and prepare the products for retail from the orders they have received. Frozen tuna is cut with large band saws, while fresh tuna is carved with extremely long knives that are over three feet long. Something about this certainly brought images of Japanese samurai warriors to mind.
Beautiful packaging seems to be the Japanese way with everything, and their produce was no different.
In the end, we went to one of the sushi restaurants that borders the Fish Market for the most wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth sushi lunch ever. I guess you can’t get fresher than catching the fish that morning, slicing it up, and walking it across the street.