A market on steroids

Sydney prides itself on its fish market, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s a great place for Sydneysiders to buy fresh fish, as well as for tourists to ogle at and sample the diverse seafood offer.

But the honour of largest wholesale fish market in the world belong’s to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, located on a small strip of reclaimed land between Ginza and the waterfront. A few facts:

  • Five million pounds of seafood, worth about US$28 million, is sold in the fish market each day.
  • The market covers more than 23 hectares and contains more than 1,500 stalls.
  • 60,000 people work at the market, using more than 32,000 vehicles including trucks, vans, hand carts, bicycles, wagons and forklifts.
  • The highest ever price for a sushi grade bluefin tuna was US$173,600 for a 444 pound fish in January 2001.

There are a few things you can do at the market.

One is to visit the tuna auction which kicks off at 5.25 a.m. but is strictly limited to 120 visitors per day on a first come, first served basis.

If you prefer not to get up with the sparrows and take a punt on getting a slot to view the auction, you can enjoy a leisurely seafood breakfast at one of the many restaurants in the alleyways that adjoin the fish market.

These alleyways are chock full of shops selling seafood, cooking utensils, fruit, veg and various other oddments.

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There are several restaurants to choose from, most of them catering to no more than 20 persons.  A queue outside is a good sign, although the one we select – which has no queue – is almost full so it must be good.

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It’s a simple affair with half a dozen tables and modest decor.

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But when it comes to the food, the chef delivers.  Sashimi with caviar and a single prawn, mounted on a bed of rice, accompanied by a dab of wasabi and dipping sauce.  Included is a bowl of miso with a crab claw floating in it.  A bottomless mug of tea washes it all down.  The sashimi is the freshest and best we’ve tasted ever.  The miso isn’t that bad either, but removing the meat from the crab claw was never meant to be done with chopsticks.

Suitably fortified, we head off in the direction of the fish market.

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Due to a lack of signage – or maybe our inability to read Japanese – we inadvertently divert through the fruit and veggie market which, of itself, is worth a look for the exotic, in-season strawberries.

To get to the wholesale area of the fish market, we run the gauntlet of trucks, forklifts and other vehicles that operate outside the market.  Safely inside, we are blown away by the sheer scale of the place.

Six to eight rows of goods laden aisles, each at least 100 metres long, vendors slicing, dicing, packing and selling.  Tuna, salmon, prawns, squid, mussels the size of a human fist, eel, roe, it’s all there.  Plus stuff we’ve never seen before.  My camera shutter is in overdrive.

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By 9.30 a.m. it’s starting to wind down and half an hour later, it’s all over.

Until tomorrow.

 

© AJapaneseDiary, 2013 ongoing. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without the express and written permission of this blog’s author and owner is strictly forbidden. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given, and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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2 thoughts on “A market on steroids

  1. Lovely to read about Japan again and this particular post has me wanting to rush out for a seafood dinner. I am going to send a link to this blog to my nephew who is being posted to Tokyo by his law firm in December. I’m sure he’ll find it really useful and informative.

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