Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo (Japan)

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market is the biggest wholesale fish market in the world...a surprising accomplishment for such a small country. I'm a fan of "big" things: the Big Pineapple; the Big Prawn and the Big Banana to name a few so there was NO way I was heading home from Japan without seeing The Big Fish Market!


Before we hit the market proper we get lost in a labyrinth of little laneways that we stupidly thought was "the market", or "the outer market", or "some version of the market". This area is undoubtedly attached to the market in some way (or exists because of the market at any rate), but keep burrowing in until you hit the "proper" Tsukiji Fish Market. You'll know it when you see it as it's a BIG, busy open space swarming with stallholders and scarily fast propane powered trolleys that seem to be quite happy to run over agog-mouthed tourists. Surprisingly though we saw no seagulls about...maybe it was too cold?


We spend a little while wandering about the nice "outer-outer, not-really-the-market market" which was lovely. I'm guessing this is where the locals come to shop for seafood and other items that are on offer including vegetables and fruit.  We saw a little bonito-flake factory, tried fleshly flaked bonito, bought some sake glasses, tried some proper green tea and were offered a sample of dried fish we loved, much to the delight of the stall holder.


For those that are keen you can arrive at Tsukiji Fish Market at some ungodly hour and wait in line to be accepted into the "inner-market" where the famous Tuna Auctions take place at about 5am each morning. There's little that will get me out of bed before dawn and watching endangered Tuna be auctioned off for ridiculous prices is not one of those things. It was interesting to see though, when we were waking around, that nearly all of the tuna was frozen rather than whole, fresh fish.


We arrived at about 11am and had a leisurely wander around as the stallholders were all packing up.  As we wandered around I really got a sense of how HUGE this market is. We hardly made a dent into the space after 20 minutes of wandering. It was also nice to see some "hipster light fixtures" being used for their intended purpose of industrial lighting...



I also started to get a sense of how much seafood the market must go through here each day...and I started to feel uneasy. For every fish I saw here I wondered how much "by-catch" was left dead on the docks or thrown, dead, back into the ocean. I also wondered what happened to all the fish that didn't sell...did it become "rubbish"? I was aware of our massive over-consumption of everything and I didn't feel great...but I felt hungry so we went for sushi!


There are a few very well known sushi places in the "outer-market" and they are easily recognizable for the horrendous queues forming outside. As it was about 3 degrees on the day of our visit I went straight to the restaurant with no queue. I was running with the theory that we were in Japan, at the biggest fish market in the world...surely ALL the sushi joints would be great.


And look at this fabulous old uncle dishing up sushi from behind the counter! I felt like I was in the movie "Jiro dreams of sushi". Our restaurant couldn't have been more perfect!


The restaurant is tiny, and I'm fairly most of them at the market would be about the same size.  There is *just* enough room for us to sit on our stools and for the waiter to squish past with our green tea and soup.


Unsurprisingly the majority of the sushi on offer is tuna. I'm sure there's a way to ask for "no endangered Tuna please Mr Sushi-maker-man, just line caught Slipjack for me" but lord knows how you say that in Japanese...so we just ate what we were given and I have to say it was pretty terrific. Everything was super fresh and so delicious. With the addition of the green tea and pimped out miso soup that had noodles in it we left feeling very full and happy.  This feed cost us about AUD$25 each.


For details on how to get to the markets and their opening times this Wikipedia link should help.

22 comments:

  1. Ooh this brings back memories! We visited the market when I was in Japan and ate at a sushi joint that looks a lot like that one! This was riiiight before I turned properly vegetarian, I think the unease you spoke of about the wasted fish may have helped tip me over the edge!

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  2. Yes, it was a real eye opener...and it's got me thinking even more about the ethics of eating.

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  3. The biggest wholesale fish market in the world - that's an impressive title - wow! The frozen tuna looks so surreal. Great looking sushi!

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  4. Sara (Belly Rumbles)March 19, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    Glad you got to see Tsukiji before it moves to its new home. I have never bothered going there at the crack of dawn. There is enough action happening if you get there at a normal early hour.

    The Tsukiji outer market is called 'Jogai Shijo', it is actually my favourite part of Tsukiji. So much to see and try :) Great wrap up and I will forever be scared of being run over by those turret trucks, they have right of way, you have to watch out!

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  5. Wow Mel, what a fascinating place! I would love to go there... but once when I went to Sydney Fish Market I was almost sickened by what seemed to be too much fish in one place. All dead!

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  6. Very cool experience, glad your sustainability concerns didn't turn you into a vegan :)

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  7. AWwww yummmmm, dude that looks pretty good for $25/pp. Real fresh sushi from the Fish Market. This definitely makes the Sydney Fish Market look like nothing in comparison. Yeah, its actually odd how tuna is kept frozen there. I've only had sushi in the city when I was in Japan, wish I somehow found my way there... You should have brought a tiny dried prawn back to photograph next to the Big Prawn!!

    http://www.rosa-dyn.com

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  8. Tina@foodboozeshoesMarch 20, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Yay - what an awesome experience! Glad you didn't get up at 4am just to miss the auctions like us ;)

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  9. Sherrie @ Crystal NoirMarch 20, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Omg I still have dreams about the delicious otoro tuna belly - it was so melt in the mouth! Nothing in Sydney simply compares to the tuna in Japan :(

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  10. I'd love to go to the Tokyo Fish Markets - but like you, I don't know if I would get up for the 5am auctions! I've never considered the environmental impacts though...willful blind ignorance I guess.

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  11. This makes me want to go back to Tokyo!! How awesome is the shopping food hall?! I went to Tsukiji market a bit late in the day so didn't see all the fish, but I could still smell it lol. Fish is so imbedded in Japanese culture though, so is the pretty double-triple packaging of food.... and when you buy multiple items, they asked if you want separate bag LOL! Did you go to Tokyo Banana?

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  12. I didn't go to Tokyo Banana - I have no idea what that is but I'm going to look it up ASAP!

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  13. You have to BE there by 5am, so lord only knows what time you need to actually get up. The trains don't even run that early there.

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  14. Tokyo is a world unto itself...we found Sydney so dull after be there.

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  15. We probably went a tad too late though, but we still saw enough to get an idea of what it's all about.

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  16. I've heard that there are BIG warehouses filled with Tuna. Once that runs out that's it as the tuna stocks in the ocean are almost gone.

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  17. Being Vegan would be SO hard and I'm WAY too lazy!

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  18. I know right? It just seemed live overkill...literally. I had so many questions floating around in my head and could really see how our greed is leading to such waste.

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  19. So was the area where we were wandering around first the "outer market" or is the "outer market" where the sushi joints are that we ate at? It's like a riddle that I cannot solve.

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  20. It was enermous! We didn't even make a dent in it I'm sure.

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  21. At first I thought "oh this place is cool" and then as we saw stall after stall after stall packing up their unsold seafood I began to really wonder what happens to it all now and also WHY do they need SO much!

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  22. Sara (Belly Rumbles)March 30, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    The outer market is where they sell the dried shaved bonito, knives, cooking utensils, the dried little shrimp etc. Really depends on which direction you come to the markets from, but generally you walk through that to get to the main fish floor/markets. I'm not quite sure where the sushi joint is that you ate in at the end, but you can eat in the outer market as well, there are some sushi places.

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