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Tsukiji Fish Markets

Listed under Markets in Tokyo, Japan.

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Tokyo's fish markets now feature in a lot of travel guides but their fame hasn't changed them. The workers still ride around on crazy little trucks made from sitting a drum engine on top of an open wheeled platform – you drive standing up, exposed to the elements but these are wellie clad fishermen not city suits – driving and smoking where they like and crowding each other out with their activity – much of it while handling really really large knives...saws or swords almost. There is no way people would be able to just wander into a place like this in a European or North American country. The insurance would be a nightmare – the floor is covered in water and ice and there are small mad truck/trolley drivers and men with big knives everywhere. But that's what makes it so memorable.

I saw a tuna which was longer than I am tall – I'm not the shortest person either – its head was about the size of a lions (mane included). I then saw it getting cut up into sections – it took three men to cut into it. I also saw fish turned inside out exposing their roe, octopi with their legs tied in a bundle, squids soaking in their own ink, and more kinds of dead or dying marine life than I could name. After the big auctions first thing in the morning the purchased fish is sold and or prepared in the a hanger sectioned off into stalls which all have loft bits where I imagine they keep the knives and freezers, but it's all pretty basic – polystyrene crates, ice, fish, wooden chopping blocks, tanks of water, buckets, hoses and did I mention the knives...?

The worst thing is feeling in the way – these guys are working, not here to entertain, despite their surprisingly quite accommodating friendliness. The second worst thing is being torn between drooling for sushi and being slightly repelled by the still flapping tails or snapping claws...

Getting in is slightly confusing – there isn't really a visitor's entrance and you have to go in the way the workers do and keep your eyes peeled for trucks and their extended vehicular families. On the main road there are noodle bars and stands selling fresh, cooked fish of all kinds, but with just a bar and four chairs they're not really the restaurants the guide books promise, those are around the other side and in the narrow lanes beside the main undercover market where as well as seafood you can buy crockery, dried foods, pickled foods and other unrecognisable things suction packed in plastic, fruit and veg and anything else you might need if you were planning a dinner party or opening a restaurant. If you're in the market to buy something for your tea, get some advice from one of the less hurried (possibly older?) looking market men (not one driving on of the mini trucks), and see what they recommend that day, the people were surprisingly friendly considering I wasn't even a proper shopper, I was taking photos and possibly in the way (though I was trying not to be.).

No where else like it – a perfect place to discover the marketplace atmosphere of Japan and the culinary traditions all in one go. Definitely go...promise me you will. You won't regret it. Even though it's a early start to get there before 8.

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

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Tokyo Fish Market

The Tsukiji Fish market is not for the faint hearted. It is the largest of Tokyo’s wholesale markets selling vegetables, fruit and most importantly fish. The selection of seafood is vast; it is one of the biggest fish markets in the world, and so although the market is fascinating as a tourist attraction, there is serious business to be conducted. The market is a microcosm of scooters, trucks and busy buyers and sellers and so it is important not to bring large bags or obstruct the narrow lanes between the stalls. Tourists are advised to get to the market before 9am to see the main action - you can take refuge in one of the many restaurants within the market to enjoy a sushi breakfast; so as well as admiring all the weird and wonderful varieties the market has to offer, you can taste them too.

Tsukiji Fish Markets

For an island nation where fish is one of the main sources of protein you would expect the wholesale seafood market to be a major affair, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Fish Market, or Tsukiji Fish Market doesn't disappoint as the worlds biggest.

Tsukiji is obviously primarily a place of business, forklifts, scooters and trolleys vie for space in the narrow lanes between the stands and there is constant shouting and movement. The inner market is where all the auctions take place, it’s here you can see giant tuna fish in various sized pieces laid out on low benches and marine life piled into crates and boxes; the outer has wholesale seafood stalls, by this time the fish is partly cut and presented on ice, as well as retail and other food stores and restaurants (no prizes for guessing what kind of restaurants flourish here.).

You can get pretty much any seafood you fancy here and the seaweed you need to wrap it in if you’re planning to make sushi. Locals don’t tend to visit the market for fun, but tourists love it, the best time to shop is between 5am and 9am - it’s closed Sundays. The fish starts to pour in at around 3am and the auctions kick off around 5:30 after the licensed wholesalers have had a chance to appraise the catch (despite my fisherman speak some of it is flown in frozen.).

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