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Tsukiji fish market: Map

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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 Tokyomarker, and is a major attraction for foreign visitors.


Location

Vendors display the morning's catch at the market at 4 a.m.
End of the fresh tuna auction at Tsukiji
The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, commonly known as Tsukiji fish market is located near the Tsukijishijō Station on the 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, especially sushi restaurants. Most of the shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon, and in the inner market even earlier.

Economics

Tuna auction at Tsukiji
The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood from tiny sardines to 300kg tuna, from cheap seaweed to the 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 distributors.

Operations

Cutting frozen tuna with a band saw


The market opens most mornings except Sundays and holidays and some infrequent closing days in the week"http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/etc/calendar/2008.html."Tsukiji 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 oroshi hocho, maguro-bocho, or hancho hocho.

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 holidays.

Inspectors from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government supervise activities in the market to enforce the Food Hygiene Law.

History

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, Osaka to Edo to provide fish for the castle. Fish not bought by the castle was sold near the Nihonbashimarker 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), which 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.

The Great Kantō earthquakemarker on September 1, 1923, devastated much of central Tokyo, including the Nihonbashimarker 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.

References

  1. BBC NEWS: "Tokyo scales back fish tourists" (28 March 2008). Retrieved on 3 December 2008.
  2. "Too many foreigners forces ban on tourists to Tsukiji fish market," Mainichi Daily News, December 3, 2008. Retrieved on 3 December 2008.
  3. Nikkei Shimbun, November 24, 2009 (in Japanese).


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