Posted by: pizzainmotion | May 7, 2012

41 Hours in Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market

This is my second post about my recent trip to Tokyo on the inaugural Dreamliner flight from BOS-NRT.  You can see the previous posts here:

Sheraton Miyako Hotel

The Tuskiji fish market is the largest in the world.  Here’s a quick picture from above (not mine) that will give you a good idea of how much real estate it covers.

The market has a tuna auction six mornings a week at around 5:20 am, and it’s huge.  Because of it’s growth in popularity, they only allow 120 people to view the auctions each day.  What I didn’t know was that those spots fill up pretty quickly.

I left my hotel around 4 am and hopped in a cab (this was the $50 cab ride I mentioned earlier).  I figured I would be there super early.  But, since Tokyo is a fairly safe city, I wasn’t too concerned with being on the street alone in the middle of the night.  Turns out that wouldn’t be an issue.  By the time I got there, 40-ish people were already in line.  So, I did what everyone else was doing and hung out in a line on the sidewalk for about 40 minutes.

There were a couple of police officers keeping us organized.  I ended up in line behind 3 guys from Washington, DC, and the guy in line behind me turned out to know someone from my high school in NY.  Small world, standing on the sidewalk at night in the middle of Tokyo.

A few minutes before 5am, we were lead inside a room, shown a video about what we could and couldn’t do, then lead out into the fish market.  We were given stylish orange vests to wear as well.  While I definitely felt a bit crazy getting up in the middle of the night to go see dead fish, there were people a bit more determined than me.  This guy had brought his luggage with him to the fish market and was headed out to the airport right after the auction.

It was starting to get light on our walk over to the tuna auction, and the market was already in full swing.

There had to be at least a few hundred tunas on the auction floor that morning, and none of them were really that small.  As you can see from the pictures, that’s a lot of sushi.

The process looks really disorganized, since there are just a bunch of people milling around picking at the fish and taking notes.  Then, a person who’s running one of the auctions rings a bell and starts shouting out different lots of tuna (quick video).

Hand signals are the bidding instruments, and very quickly the fish are sold.  After they are sold, they are marked by someone and then shortly thereafter carted off.  In this video, you can see the marking and one of the bidders inspecting some tunas that were being purchased at that moment.

All in all, it was a worthwhile experience.  And, of course it lead to the best part of the morning, which was some of the freshest sushi I’ve ever had and beer at 6am.  Stay tuned!


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