Panorama of the Week: Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Where Sushi Gets its Start

A visit to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market is a rite of passage for sushi enthusiasts. For those of us who bow at the altar of raw fish, it’s truly a must-see.

After you’ve visited Tsukiji, you may never look at that piece of tako (octopus) or toro (tuna) in quite the same way ever again. Outside of the seas themselves, it doesn’t get any fresher than this.

Once the famous tuna auctions wind up in the wee hours of the morning, the wholesale market opens to the general public.

As with many things Japanese, the market features a confluence of efficiency and quality, with a dose of matter-of-fact, what-you-see-is-what you get freshness. Vendors move quickly and deliberately, packing their fish and shellfish in ice while scooters and seafood lorries buzz through the main corridors. All this action underscores that this place is the heart of Japan’s fresh fish distribution network.

Amidst the commercial, there’s also a family feel that runs deep. We’re told some Tsukiji market family-run businesses go back over 20 generations (take a moment to do the math). The person — often the family matriarch — stays perched in a little booth at the back of each stall, handling the money.

When you’ve reached a point of market saturation, take a walk outside to sushi alleys six through nine. Some bars feature waits of up to three hours, but don’t be deterred — even the lesser known ones offer generous dons of dazzlingly fresh sashimi sculptures over mounds of sushi rice.

This is our breakfast of champions.

Open the panorama below to get a sense of what it feels like to be amidst the bustle of Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

Panorama: Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

panorama directions

Disclosure: Our Discover Japan tour was provided by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. Some, but not all, expenses were covered. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great panorama. I worked as a freelance teacher in Tokyo for a year and every Wednesday, I had a lesson at NTT near the fish market. Before every lesson, I would have sushi at a little hole-in-the-wall place that was standing room only. It was little more than a counter and a chef, but the sushi was incredibly fresh and only 70 yen per piece. I wish I remembered the name.

  2. says

    @Daniel: Wish we had known about this place! Sounds incredible, and that price is amazing. Although, I can’t complain as we did have two fantastic dons as breakfasts after our market visits. Makes me so hungry thinking about that…

    @Robert: Yes, the whole market is kept incredibly clean and without a lot of smell as well.

    @Celina: Thanks! If you’re interested, you can see all our panoramas from all over the world here: http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/category/photography/panorama/

    @Christy: You described the feel of the market exactly! Even though it is bustling with people and activity, there is still a family-centered feel to it.

  3. says

    Our first stop on our backpacking trip is Japan and I couldn’t be more excited for the fish market! Sushi is hands down my favorite food and I can’t wait to sample is at the little bar/stalls by the market! Along with the travel blog I also run a food blog (avocadopesto.com) and I know the market will make for quite a post!

  4. says

    Great article! Did you check out the tuna auction while you were there? We managed to drag ourselves out of bed in time to visit in the dead of winter and it was well worth the effort. My favorite part was having fresh sushi for breakfast after the auction ended. You’re right, I’ll never look at toro the same way again!

  5. says

    I can nearly taste (and feel) the melt-in-your-mouth sashimi after reading this and viewing the panorama. Truly the breakfast or meal of champions!

  6. says

    I’m not going to lie: one of the things I’m most excited to see in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market, and yes, I really want to eat a sushi breakfast there! I honestly can’t imagine a better meal to start the day!

  7. Sutapa says

    I wish I understood all the Japanese signs. I love to be in a fish market. As a Bengali, fish is very important in my family (Bengalis don’t eat raw fish but still)..

  8. says

    Tasty bits!!!

    Wish it wasn’t so expensive, so I could take my sex-and-mayhem style bloglet over there and enjoy some Japan too. :)

  9. says

    @Vicky: No shortage of food inspiration in Japan. We’ll be doing a huge Japan food post in the near future. Stay tuned.

    @Heather: Didn’t make it to the tuna auction. We’ve heard it’s great, but we couldn’t manage it amidst a crazy schedule. We’ve heard only good things, though. A new respect for the fish trade.

    @Mark: A new mantra: Sushi, breakfast of champions.

    @Steph: Sushi to start the day, it’s among the best.

    @Sutapa: With something like 3/4 of the earth covered by water, it could be said that fish make the world go round.

    @Jake: It’s all about making choices.

    @Lorii: Glad to hear it.

  10. says

    This place looks so interesting! I spent the last 5 years in Hawai’i and made it out to the early morning fish markets where all the restaurants buy their fresh fish…quite an experience! There are grates laid out across a large warehouse, while huge yellowfins, mahi mahi, opah and even sometimes sharks (sad though). If you ever get to Honolulu, definitely check it out!

  11. says

    When the first time I read from the news that Tokyo is again exporting some fish, the things come to my mind is Japan is indeed still undefeated by these hard times.

  12. says

    I haven’t been eating Japanese foods until I tried them last year in Singapore. My mom’s friend that hosted my stay in Singapore was married to a Japanese man and we celebrated Christmas in a Japanese restaurant.

    They ordered food for me and get me try the sashimis, it was awesome! After that, when I came back to the Philippines all I was craving for was Japanese food!

  13. says

    Japanese food is indeed amazing, the sushis especially. So many of my friends crave for sushis. And the fish markets are always noisy.

  14. says

    @laura: Nothing better than an early morning fish market, wherever you are!

    @Jesse: That was the feeling that we got from our visit to Japan. Still significant challenges, for sure. But if anyone is up to the task, the Japanese people are.

    @Samuel: Glad we could bring back your own fish market memories.

    @Dylan: Do it, but do it soon. Tsukiji is schedule to close in the next year or two.

    @Marco: Glad you like the panoramas.

    @Tom: That’s the idea. There was so much going on in that market, we had to find a fun way to capture it.

    @Jonathan: Absolutely…visit the fresh market first is one of our travel tips to live by.

    @Lyndsay: Once you have sashimi, there’s no going back. (And on Christmas, too! Love it.)

    @Clay: We all crave for sushis ;)

  15. says

    Great article. I can only imagine how fresh the sea food is…mouth watering. Not made it to Japan yet but it’s definitely on my to do list. Nice inclusion of the panoramic view to give us a real feel for the place.

  16. says

    @remy: Glad you liked it. The fish market, an enclosed space, seemed to work well with the panoramic approach.

    @Audrey: Yeah, raw is a bit slimy. How about steamed octopus? Or maybe grilled?

  17. says

    I really think that markets are the best place to visit in a city to truly get an authentic feel for a city its culture. I love sushi, well seafood in general, and I can’t imagine a better schooling of sushi than visiting a fish market like this. I bet you can learn so much just observing these masters! That panorama is fantastic, I feel like I can smell the sushi rice!

  18. says

    @Megan: Markets are the way to go; the place to get started. To understand fish and sushi in Japan, to Tokyo where it all begins. Glad this panorama gets you into the sushi mood.

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