The Tsukji Fish market is the largest wholesale fish market in the world. Every day around $20m of seafood is bought and sold at the market and the first tuna auction of the new year regularly breaks records. In January this year, a single Bluefin Tuna was sold for $736,000.
We had done our research and knew that the auction starts at 5am (every day except Sundays when the market is closed), that while they admit members of the public, this number is restricted to 120 people on a first-come first-served basis.
Sleepy and without having had a decent cup of coffee, we left our hotel in Shinjuku at 4:15am. No metro at this hour so we took a taxi. As we approached Osakana Fukyu Center (Fish Information Center – where you need to go to register) we saw several groups of people (Westerners and other tourists) heading on foot towards the area. We were pleased that we would get there before them. 4000 yen later, at 4:50am we arrived at Kachidoki Gate, next to the Information Center and could immediately hear one of the market security guards on other side of the road waving and shouting to us: ‘Finished, finished’. We were too late and all 120 places had been filled. We were very surprised. We knew that it was a popular event but didn’t think so many people would get there before us. Mistake.
Of course, there’s still a lot of stuff happening that early in the morning in the market. We weren’t bored at all but because the Seafood Wholesale market area doesn’t open to tourists until 9am (4 hours later) we decided to look around the Jogai Shijo (outer market). It’s several blocks of very narrow streets with shops selling fresh seafood, fish products (lots of dry fish), seaweed etc. Between those shops are small restaurants where you can buy the freshest sushi in Tokyo. Just after 5am in the morning those streets were already buzzing with life.
You have to have eyes in the back of your head or (in my case) a very protective husband. Turret trucks are surprisingly fast, nimble and have priority. There were flocks of them streaming in and out of the wholesale market.
Some of the sushi restaurants open just after 5am! A few even had Japanese people queuing up in front of still-closed doors.
Fresh wasabi root.
There are a lot of bicycles parked around the Outer market. Seems most of the shoppers were using them.