If you get to Tsukiji Market early enough, you can see one of the most exciting auctions in Tokyo. At 5:30 am bidding starts for fish, usually tuna, for licensed participants.
The Tsukiji Market is managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market and is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world.
Sadly, when I exited the Tsukiji metro station it was after 9 am and by then the auctions at the market have usually wrapped up. When we arrived there was a crowded intersection just outside the entrance to the market, so we knew we were in the right spot.
We entered the outer market, a mixture of wholesale and retail shops, and walked through crowded alleyways. The shops were selling a combination of kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and plenty of restaurants.
Plenty of stands were selling knives of all kinds and the tools to sharpen them with, dishes and bowls, and plenty other tools I wasn’t familiar with but looked useful. Jonathan even tried to convince me to buy a big meat cleaver – that was a firm no for me.
After we walked around for a while we started to get hungry, so we kept our eyes peeled for a stand selling some good foods. Along the main walkway, we found a mochi stand where we got strawberry mochi and a kebab stand where we ordered grilled eel and swordfish.
Mochi is a sort of rice ice cream usually with a filling inside. The strawberry mochi we ate was pink with a decorative strawberry atop, perhaps to mark the flavor. At the kebab stand, Jonathan said his eel tasted perfect — salty but not too salty.
After our quick bite to eat we made our way to the inner market, where approximately 900 wholesale dealers work at small stalls. The market deals with around 400 different types of seafood from seaweed to caviar.
Every day 700,000 metric tons of seafood is handled at the three markets across Tokyo. I saw so much fish and squid in styrofoam boxes and live lobster in tanks with their claws rubber-banded close.
Visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market made me realize that America doesn’t have huge markets similar to this where they specialize in seafood. That said, this is a must see when visiting Tokyo.