Japan: Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market Is World’s Busiest Seafood Outlet


Michael Taylor was flown to Tokyo, Japan, by United Airlines. This is the 10th in a series of travelogues based on his trip to the Japanese capital.

A fish market is not the sort of spot I would normally want to visit when I’m traveling overseas, but I was assured by the woman in charge of public relations as well as the concierge at the Conrad Tokyo hotel that Tokyo’s massive Tsukiji Market was not to be missed.

Since Tsukiji Market was only a short walk from the hotel I was staying at, I thought, “Why not? If nothing else, it will make an interesting post for my blog.”

I decided NOT to visit Tsukiji Market until after finishing breakfast a sumptuous breakfast at the Executive Lounge of the Tokyo Conrad, however. To start with, I didn’t want to lose my appetite (I’m not a big fan of fish). Secondly, the idea of arriving at 5 am to watch the morning auction did not appeal to me. I prefer to sleep in.

How to Deal with Jet Lag in Tokyo

As Time magazine suggests, an early morning visit to Tsukiji Market IS something you might want to do if you’re suffering jet lag, you are unable to sleep, and your hotel’s coffee shop hasn’t opened yet for breakfast.

While the auction begins at about 5.20 am, the market opens at 3 am.

Tsukiji Market is located near the Tsukijishijō Station on the Toei Ōedo Line and Tsukiji Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.

Tsukiji Market is divided into two distinct sections. The most interesting is the jōnai-shijō, or Inner Market, which is a licensed wholesale market, and this is where the morning seafood auctions are held.

This is also where most of the processing of the fish takes place. Fully 900 wholesale fish dealers maintain stalls in Tsukiji Market’s Inner Market.

Retail Shops and Restaurants

The jōgai-shijō, or Outer Market, has both wholesale and retail shops selling everything from Japanese kitchen tools to restaurant supplies to groceries to seafood. There are also numerous restaurants – mostly sushi and seafood restaurants.

From seaweed to caviar, Tsukiji Market deals in more than 400 different types of seafood. The market opens most mornings (except Sundays, holidays, and some Wednesdays) at 3:00 a.m. with the arrival of the products by ship, truck, and airplane from all over the world.

Tsukiji Market is the busiest between 5:30 and 8:00 am. By the time I arrived, it was after 10 am so I can only guess at what Tsukiji Market must be like when it is in full swing.

Camera Toting Tourists

Even at this relatively late hour, there were fast moving forktrucks and high powered saws. I really wondered if tourists should be allowed to wander around in a place like this. If I worked there, I don’t think I would appreciate having to dodge camera toting visitors.

The shops and stalls start closing at about 11 am. By 1 pm the entire market shuts down for a thorough sanitization exercise.

Lunch time was approaching. Should I eat at one of the many restaurants in the Outer Market? Hungry crowds were forming, examining menus and scrutinizing the sample dishes that had been set out front.

After spending an hour wandering through a fish market, however, seafood was the last thing I wanted for lunch. I headed to the nearest Metro station, took the train to another part of Tokyo, and ate lunch at the nearest McDonald’s.

To Be Continued

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