Tokyo, Japan – Tsukiji Fish Market

November 29, 2018

Tsukiji Fish Market: Tokyo at 4am

The Tokyo fish market is life in the city before the remainder of the city has their first green tea of the morning. The guide books advise to arrive by 4:30 am to garner a seat at the tuna auction. Actually, some auctions begin at 3 am. By 4:30 a young man can be seen carving up the day’s purchase, as has been done for centuries.

New to this era are the electric carts, manipulated by serious fellows, using a large horizontal wheel, as they deliver fish from large trucks to vendor stalls early in the morning and return to load orders from chefs to small vans and trucks. By 5 am buyers with clipboards arrive to inspect the styrofoam boxes of packed seafood.

The distribution system is practiced and efficient. Cart drivers move quickly and with purpose. There is no noise, other than the whine of the carts. There is no music, no yelling and no smell. Truly fresh fish does not smell. The whole morning process of fish in and fish out makes a Walmart distribution center look like slow motion. By 5am a caravan of trucks and vans pours from the market into the city.

Deep into the market a man cuts fillets on a table that is surgically clean. He is focused. In minutes the sturgeon surgeon reduces a large fish to measured pieces. Our dinner tonight will have crossed his table, or one of the adjoining tables.

When in Tokyo, to reach the market, come to Oedo 18, E-18 on the subway. If you plan to arrive before the metro opens at 5:30am, take a cab. The wholesale market operation is a sight few tourists will experience. The fish auction is as iconic Tokyo as temples and gardens. See it before breakfast. If you stay at the market, your sushi from one of the stalls inside will be incredibly fresh.

See all the stories of Japan in Cruise through History, Itinerary XV, coming soon.

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