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.