Tokyo, Japan and Tsukiji Fish Market

It probably would have been better if I woke up earlier than 6am to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market. But as it was a vacation, I crawled slowly out of bed. I stayed in the Asakusa District in Tokyo so it is a couple of subway stops from the fish market. I definitely was half-asleep when getting prepared to go. My guide book said that you have to be there before 7am to see any kind of action. In hindsight, I took that to mean that I can get there at 7am rather than be there anytime before then.

Getting out at the Tsukiji Station, there were several warehouses in front of me. I was traveling with my friend Adam at this time. He jetted ahead of me to the first warehouse he saw. That warehouse was full of styrofoam boxes and small delivery carts zooming out in every direction. But no fish. I thought to myself that this was a rather odd fish market with no fish on display. We moved further into the warehouse and moved to a second warehouse. This one probably had more delivery carts and added delivery trucks and vans to the mix.

However, we kept pushing forward and in one of the warehouses we saw some hanging lights that could be from a stall. Sure enough it was one of the ends of the fish market. Looks like we missed the auction, but walking through the stalls is an adventure too. There were all kinds of fish for sale. Sea bream, snapper, yellowtail, marlin, swordfish. There were also different varieties of mollusks such as octopus, cuttlefish, clams, oysters, and scallops. One of the surprises was how big tuna was. I never thought of tuna as a big fish. Maybe from all the years of seeing them in a can.

Personally, the most surprising thing for sale was whale meat. I believe Norway and Japan are the only countries who do any kind of commercial whaling. It sort of caught me off guard. My own beliefs of what is acceptable as food is always changing. On the one hand, I respect their tradition in whaling. On the other hand, I find whales to be large giants of the sea that mind their own business. Maybe not gentle giants but it’s just that image of them as lumbering giants. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind. A life is a life, be it pig, cow, or whale.

After walking through several fish stalls, we found an exit to a main street. We took the opportunity to get out while we still had it. It is so easy to get lost in there that we took our first chance to escape. Upon exiting, our way out looked more like the entrance. There were stalls selling knives, raw wasabi plants, and other tools for eating seafood all neatly lined in an alley leading to the street. On the main street, there were several food stalls selling sashimi. It was early in the morning and the toast from the hostel might as well have been air. My stomach was hungry from the sight of all that fresh fish. I had a breakfast of seaweed, uni, tuna, and miso soup. The most lavish breakfast I had in a while and where else should I do it at than at one of the world’s most famous fish markets? This was a great start to a day in Tokyo.

Parting Words

Tsukiji Fish Market is a vast cavernous place with many warehouses. Don’t get lost and don’t get run over by the delivery carts that are zooming past you. I don’t recall a very strong fish smell when traveling through the market. That is probably a testament to how fresh all of the seafood on display on was.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.