The Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo is the world's largest wholesale fish market. Strategically located near the mouth of the Sumida River, it is convenient for fishermen who sail up from Tokyo Bay to offload the day's catch. The main market hall is huge and cavernous, and has stall after stall of all kinds of seafood; fish, sea urchin, sea cucumber, shellfish, squid, seaweed, caviar, and octopus. It is an impressive sight! Tsukiji handles over 700,000 tons of seafood per year.
This is where the early-morning fish auctions are held, where vendors come to bid on gigantic whole tuna. Chefs and home cooks alike shop here for the freshest seafood. There are also kitchen supplies, produce, and other Japanese food items sold in outdoor stalls surrounding the main market hall. The market opens at 5:00 AM and the numerous sushi stalls tucked among the vendors are a popular breakfast destination. There are also coffee bars, hot soup stands, and even a temple where the fishermen go to pray for good luck.
The best time to visit the market is early in the morning, and have a sushi breakfast at 5:30 AM. It is an experience watching the market unfold so quickly - by 6:30 AM the market is in full swing and packed with buyers and tourists alike. The market activity declines around 8:30 AM and closes by 11:00 AM. Tourists are not allowed in the auction areas between 5:00AM and 6:15AM, but can still visit the main market halls and outdoor stalls without restrictions.
A word of note; please feel free to look, but be courteous. Don't touch the food, and don't take photos without permission. Flash photography is not allowed. Walk with caution; the floors are wet and slippery, and the forklift operators drive VERY fast!
Read more about Tsujiki. (Wikipedia link) Check out more photos below:
The market hall - this photo cannot show how huge and cavernous this place is!
Display case with large cuts of tuna
Cutting frozen tuna with a bandsaw
(Images: Kathryn Hill)