Tuna auction at Tsukiji

We made it!

Our last night in Japan was when we decided to try to see Tsukiji’s Tuna auction again – having completely failed last time.

We arrived back in Tokyo from Kyoto at 8:30pm and were very strict with ourselves. Instead of staying out late to enjoy our last night, we checked in, had a quick dinner around Shinjiku and went straight to bed.

Somehow, we managed to get up at 3am and 15min later we were in a taxi speeding through the almost deserted Tokyo streets. We were not taking chances of missing it and managed to arrive at Tsukiji market more than a whole hour earlier than last time!

However, even though it was barely 4am, we were still not first in line. There about 30 people already queuing and we could see more people arriving as we lined up. Sleepy and in desperate need of coffee but not wanting to lose our place, we waited patiently until we were taken into a waiting room. We were handled yellow vests and told to wait.

There were no vending machines in the room and no chairs. After a few minutes, everyone realised that we would be here for awhile which is when people got comfortable on the floor and the iPads, iPhones and books emerged to help keep everyone occupied and entertained.

1hr25min is a very long time to wait in the morning without a coffee when there’s nothing to do.

At exactly 5:25, an official Tsukiji worker came by and took everyone in single file through a very hectic and bustling market. Turret trucks, forklifts and market employees were running around everywhere.

We were the first of the two groups that would be allowed in to see the Tuna auction that day. In total, 120 lucky tourists would be allowed in. The first auction starts at 5:30am, the second at 5:50am and takes place everyday (except Sunday and some holidays) in a huge refridgerated room divided into two sections by the observation area (a coridor) where you can watch from.

The waiting area.

Everyone is told to keep quiet and not disturb the buyers. The tuna auction is often closed to tourists because of their behaviour.

Huge tuna caresses ready for inspection.

Each fish easily weighs over 100kg

There were two types of buyers. The very serious kind (entirely focused on the tuna) and the ones that walked around with cups of coffee, chatting and joking with friends.

Every buyer had a flashlight and a hook they use to inspect the freshness of the muscle and the fat content. They shine a flashlight on the flesh, turning and poking it with a hook while making notes.

Buyers even taste the meat.

The auctioneer stands on the stool and rings the bell to start the bidding.

Already sold tuna are labelled and painted.

20 min after entering the auction room, we were escorted out. We returned our vests and, once again, headed straight for another delicious sushi breakfast in Jogai Shijo (outer market).

That will be all for Japan for now. Until our next visit.

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