Posted by: David Stewart | December 14, 2008

Sleeping with the Fishes in Tokyo

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

Let me be totally responsible here and say at the outset, this is really not a sane tourist destination. It’s much too dangerous, there are ‘way too many opportunities to get injured, killed, ruin your shoes or just get totally grossed out. Better to sleep in.

That said, due to jet lag, I’m always wide awake very early on my first morning on an Asian trip. So there I was at 3:30AM in Tokyo, so I headed for Tsukiji.

Tsukiji (pronounced like “Ski-Gee” with a little “t” sound at the front) is the home of Tokyo’s mammoth fish market. This is about the third or fourth time I have come, once even with my family, and it’s always a new adventure.

This time, I found the fruit and vegetable market:

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

… which is not quite as fun since most of the goods are already packaged.

The main action is the tuna auction of course.

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

But apparently the market is sick of having so many tourists getting in the way, so now they are closing the auction to anyone who is not supposed to be there. You have to peer between cracks in the doors to get a glimpse of the auction action.

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

But even with the auction closed, the market is still a hive of activity. And you can still see plenty of places where frozen tuna is being sliced up with a band saw:

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

But there is plenty of still-alive specimen. This particular fish was still flapping around until this rubber-suited gent pithed him:

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

Tsukiji is an amazing catalog of all things from the sea, like a vast aquarium, albeit one packed in styrofoam :

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

After running around the market, I was finally able to find a sushi shop called “Sushi Dai”:

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

I have been looking for this place for literally 8 years, since I read about it in a travel book in 2000. The problem is that the market is so chaotic and poorly lit in the pre-dawn hours that it’s tough to find anything from just a description. But this time, I was determined to find it. Now, if you visit Tokyo with me some time, I can take you right there! And yes, raw fish at the fish market is about as fresh as you are ever going to find it.

More photos of Tsukiji at this link, tagged “Tsukiji”



  1. That’s an awful lot of eye balls staring from those pictures.

  2. I once knew someone who defined her vegetarianism as “not eating anything that has eyes.” I don’t know if she would eat potatoes or not…

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