A Morning Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market

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The alarm clock rang at 3 in the morning. Eli and I groggily got out of bed. We went to bed relatively early the night before to prepare for visiting Tsukiji Fish Market that day, but still, waking up this early was painful, to say the least.

“If you can get up early enough,” a fellow backpacker told us the night before, “you need to plan for visiting Tsukiji Fish Market right when they open. They have tuna there the size of you and me!”

Watching vendors get fish ready while visiting Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market (July 2004)

A world famous fish market

Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market intrigued Eli and me. Coming from Seattle, we loved visiting fish markets, especially Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  But we heard that visiting Tsukiji Fish Market was a much different experience than Pike Place Market. Since we didn’t have much time in Tokyo, we decided that spending a morning visiting Tsukiji Fish Market would be worth a try.

The world famous Tsukiji Fish Market has its roots in the 16th century, when riverside fish markets would sell to the public the leftover fish that was not taken by Edo Castle. The fish markets later evolved into more formal wholesale markets. And in the early 1920’s, Tsukiji Market, as well as two other markets in Tokyo, were created.

These days, Tsukiji Fish Market, located in the central part of the city between the Sumida River and the Ginza shopping district, is one of the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. The market supplies fish to restaurants and stores all along the Pacific Rim.

Fish buyers at Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market (July 2004)

Our experience visiting Tsukiji Fish Market

The guidebooks say that the market is busiest from 5:30 to 8:30 in the morning, when auctioneers auction off the fish to buyers. But our backpacker friend from the night before suggested that to really get the most out of visiting Tsukiji Fish Market, we should arrive earlier than that.

We left our hostel, the Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho, when it was still dark. After riding on the subway, we arrived at the fish market around 4 am. The market was already bustling. Large whole tuna lay on flatbed carts, frozen and gleaming under the florescent light. Fisherman and market workers busily prepared their goods for the auctions. There were only a few tourists wandering through the aisles and observing the scene, including Eli and me.

Besides the tuna, we saw aisles and aisles of different kinds of fish. Some fish were familiar looking, while others were strange and unusual. It was a treat to see this side of Tokyo. We loved being able to catch a glimpse of what a day in the life of a fisherman was like. We walked past the auctioneers and buyers who were busily trading their fish. And we headed over to the section of the market where the fish were being sold to the public.

Vendors displayed their seafood on tables or in styrofoam containers. The prices displayed nearby. This sight was much more familiar to what we were used to in Seattle. But it was still interesting to observe market life in another country.

Scales and fish at Tsukiji Fish Market
Seafood for sale at Tsukiji Fish Market (July 2004)

A market worth visiting

Around 7 am, we started getting hungry for breakfast. We found a sushi place on the outskirts of the market, and ordered sushi to eat. It was by far, the freshest sushi we had ever eaten. The fish no doubt came directly from the market.

After breakfast, our bellies were full from the food and our bodies were tired from the early morning visit. So we headed back to our hotel for a nice long nap. It had been a satisfying time, spending a morning visiting Tsukiji Fish Market.

Have you had a chance to experience visiting Tsukiji Fish Market? Share your experiences in the comments!

A Morning Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market | The Wandering Daughter

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I'm a travel-loving mom of three from Seattle. Join our adventures as we explore the Pacific Northwest and the world!

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