Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo: The Ocean’s ‘Going-Out-of-Business’ Sale

The Japanese – who live on an island – have a love affair with fish and they are famously known for such dishes as sushi and sashimi. However you may not know that this unabashed desire for fish has resulted in the largest wholesale fish market in the world, the Tsukiji Fish Market in Central Tokyo.

Tsukiji handles 700,000 metric tons of seafood per year and the demand keeps growing. Not only in Japan, Tsujiki fish is sought after around the world. A supplier for other wholesale markets, grocers, restaurants, and private citizens throughout Japan, Tsukiji is also an international broker for fish and seafood products moving around the world.

Fish that arrives processed or unprocessed, fresh or frozen, can come from as close as the Sea of Japan or as far away as the coast of Brazil. Sometimes fish is processed and frozen when it arrives to Tsukiji but often the seafood in question will make an overnight flight from its place of origin to Tsujiki and then takes another flight out to its buyer alive and intact!

Yes, that’s right, high-end seafood and sushi restaurants around the world pride themselves on fish shipped from Tsukiji! For what? Just a name.

Tsukiji itself is a dizzying place offering over 400 unique types of seafood and sea vegetation every day. Any plant or animal from any body of water in the world that could be even remotely considered edible (puffer fish, stone fish etc.) is available. And for the right amount of money, it can be yours!

With band saws whirring, the whack whack of giant cleavers, the splashing of live fish in just enough water to keep them alive, the slithery zip of filet knives on fish flesh, and hawkers yelling for your attention while little motorized vehicles overflowing with more boxes, crates, and barrels of fish frantically beep at you to get out of the way, it really does seem as if you are there on the final day of the ocean’s “going out of business sale.”

When you see a single shrimp selling for $80.00 – wholesale! (at 2008 prices) – or a geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”) half the size of those you remember seeing in the markets when you were a child, you get the sense that this really is the last of the fish.

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