Tsukiji as seen from Shiodome
is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo, and is a major attraction for foreign visitors.
Vendors display the morning's catch at
the market at 4 a.m.
End of the fresh tuna auction at
The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market
commonly known as Tsukiji fish market is located near the Tsukijishijō Station
Toei Ōedo Line
and Tsukiji Station
on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line
. There are
two distinct sections of the market as a whole. The "inner market"
(jonai shijo) is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions
and most of the processing of the fish take
place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of
them) operate small stalls. The "outer market" (jogai shijo) is a
mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools
restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood, and many restaurants,
restaurants. Most of the
shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon, and in the
inner market even earlier.
Tuna auction at Tsukiji
The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood from
to 300kg tuna
, from cheap seaweed
most expensive caviar
. Overall, more than
700,000 metric tons of seafood are handled every year at the three
seafood markets in Tokyo, with a total value in excess of 600
billion yen (approximately 5.5 billion US dollars). Tsukiji alone
handles over 2000 metric tons of seafood per day. The number of
registered employees varies from 60,000 to 65,000, including
wholesalers, accountants, auctioneers, company officials, and
Cutting frozen tuna with a band
The market opens most mornings except Sundays and holidays and some
infrequent closing days in the
Closing Calendar 2008 at 3:00 a.m. with the arrival of the products
by ship, truck and plane from all over the world. Particularly
impressive is the unloading of tons of frozen tuna. The auction
houses (wholesalers known in Japanese as oroshi gyōsha
then estimate the value and prepare the incoming products for the
auctions. The buyers (licensed to participate in the auctions) also
inspect the fish to estimate which fish they would like to bid for
and at which price.
The auctions start around 5:20 a.m. Bidding can only be done by
licensed participants. These bidders include intermediate
wholesalers (nakaoroshi gyōsha) who operate stalls in the
marketplace and other licensed buyers who are agents for
restaurants, food processing companies, and large retailers
The auctions usually end around 7:00 a.m. Afterward, the purchased
fish is either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next
destination or on small carts and moved to the many shops inside
the market. There the shop owners cut and prepare the products for
retail. In case of large fish, for example tuna and swordfish,
cutting and preparation is elaborate. Frozen tuna and swordfish are
often cut with large band saws, and fresh tuna is carved with
extremely long knives (some well over a meter in length) called
, or hancho
The market is the busiest between 5:30 and 8:00 a.m., and the
activity declines significantly afterward. Many shops start to
close around 11:00 a.m., and the market closes for cleaning around
1:00 p.m. Tourists may visit the market daily between 5 a.m. and
6:15 a.m. and watch the proceedings from a designated area. Because
of an increase in sightseers and the associated problems they
cause, the market banned all tourists from the tuna auctions
between 15 December 2008 and 17 January 2009. The market reopened
to tourists after this period with the provision of security guards
and new rules prohibiting flash photography. On 24 November 2009,
the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced that they will ban all
tourists again during the busiest season for the market, 10
December 2009 through 23 January 2010. The market is closed the
second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, Sundays, and
Inspectors from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government supervise
activities in the market to enforce the Food Hygiene Law.
The first market in Tokyo was established by Tokugawa Ieyasu
during the Edo period
to provide food for Edo
castle (nowadays Tokyo). Tokugawa Ieyasu invited
fishermen from Tsukudajima
to Edo to provide fish for the castle.
bought by the castle was sold near the Nihonbashi bridge, at a market called uogashi
(literally, "fish quay") which was one of many specialized
wholesale markets that lined the canals of Edo (as Tokyo was known
until the 1870s).
In August 1918, following the so-called "Rice Riots
" (Kome Soudou
broke out in over 100 cities and towns in protest against food
shortages and the speculative practices of wholesalers, the
Japanese government was forced to create new institutions for the
distribution of foodstuffs, especially in urban areas. A Central
Wholesale Market Law was established in March 1923.
earthquake on September 1, 1923, devastated much of central
Tokyo, including the Nihonbashi fish market.
In the aftermath of the
earthquake, the market was relocated to the Tsukiji
district and, after the construction of a
modern market facility was completed in 1935, the fish market began
operations under the provisions of the 1923 Central Wholesale
Market Law. Three major markets in Tsukiji, Kanda, and Koto began
operating in 1935. Smaller branch markets were established in
Ebara, Toshima, and Adachi, and elsewhere. At present, the Tokyo
Metropolitan Government's system of wholesale markets includes more
than a dozen major and branch markets, handling seafood, produce,
meat, and cut flowers.
- BBC NEWS: "Tokyo scales back fish tourists" (28 March 2008).
Retrieved on 3 December 2008.
- "Too many foreigners forces ban on tourists to
Tsukiji fish market," Mainichi Daily News, December 3,
2008. Retrieved on 3 December 2008.
- Nikkei Shimbun, November 24, 2009 (in