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Guided Tour of Tsukiji Market


TomV
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Hi-

My family of 4 foodies will be travelling to Tokyo in mid April. We are big fans of Japanese food and especially sushi. We are excited to visit the Tsukiji Seafood Market. I realize we could wander around and see what's there, but I'm hoping for a more "behind the scenes" tour. There are already so many tourists there getting in the way. I'm not sure a group tour would do more than scratch the surface. Something like 17% of the world catch travels through this market which is remarkable. I'm not very interested in the tuna auctions which have been closed to tourists to some extent.

I'd love to find an in the know Japanese foodie whom I could pay to show us around. Any ideas?

Thanks for reading this!

Edited by TomV (log)
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I remember reading recently that Tsukiji was tightening up security and that it would soon be or already was closed to the public. I can't remember enough details to point you to references but I would urge you to be sure you have very current information on public access before going.

I was foodie enough to recognize almost everything when I went with my guide, who had been living in japan for several years, but was definitely a not-foodie. It was amazing, and the produce was just as spectacular as the fish.

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I visited it last February, they closed it as some tourists did not behave but then re-opened. So unless they closed it again since Feb '09 you should be OK.

I did not book a tour because I wasn't sure if I could get up that early but there are few (google) that offer.

Tokyo is an awesome place to visit, I had a blast.

Edit: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3021.html

Actually it is closed until Jan 23

Edited by jk1002 (log)
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My friend Ken, see my signature, is an American with a Japanese wife who lives near Tokyo and would be glad to show you around, he is fluent in Japanese, and he likes a wide variety of foods. He is also up for unusual sites and events -I've been to the red-light district with him, as well as other semi-questionable places. He's a very tall person and people do not mess with him.

Anyway, he does tours as a sideline, he is an English teacher by trade and his website explains his rates and such.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We were there a few months ago. I did try to look for some guided tours for a more behind the scene actions, but no luck. The Tsukiji Market doesn’t encourage tourists so there are very few tours available during trading hours.

We ended up going there by ourselves and here are some pictures:

IMG_1304.jpg

This is the auction. Basically this guy was screaming, shouting, and jumping all over the place for about 10min before concluding with a final buyer.

IMG_1293.jpg

We walked around the Inner market and we were shocked by the size of some live abalones. They were huge -- some of them are about 10 inches across in diameter:

IMG_1321.jpg

You will probably see a bit more from the tours that Hiroyuki suggested above.

More info here:

www.finediningexplorer.com/other_collections

Fine Dining Explorer

www.finediningexplorer.com

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  • 3 months later...

I got back from Tokyo yesterday. It's 2:23 am East coast time. I can't sleep. What a great time to report back on this thread.

We tried a few guides, but ultimately toured the market on our own on Monday. We only spent a little time in the Inner Market because it was just crazy busy with carts and workers hustling around. Motorized carts were speeding around the place. We felt it wasn't a safe place for our kids to be, so we toured the market shops and had a ball. The inner market itself was interesting, just not a place for young kids, even when very closely supervised, as ours were.

We went to a sushi place just outside the market where they served us on leaves, rather than plates. I've now identified that place as Sushi Bun. The sushi was the most incredible I've ever had. The rice was perfect and the fish was at the height of freshness. We walked in at 7:30 am and were seated immediately. The place was empty.

If I wanted a comprehensive tour of the market to understand how it functions in detail, I would engage Mr. Nakamura at: http://homepage3.nifty.com/tokyoworks/TsukijiTour/TsukijiTourEng.htm

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Thanks for the link.

As you say in your website, it's not a tourist attraction, and I hope tourists understand this simple fact. I feel sorry that the tuna auction area is closed to the public from April 8 to May 8.

Related news article

About the scallop you mentioned in your site:

They are actually tairagai or tairagi, not hotate (scalop).

Photos of tairagai can be found here.

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As you say in your website, it's not a tourist attraction, and I hope tourists understand this simple fact.

Tsukiji is not a tourist attraction? Then you better alert the people who run JNTO, Yokoso Japan and various travel agencies, all of whom promote Tsukiji in general, and the tuna auction in particular, as a must-see tourist attraction.

As an example, see the latest Yokoso Japan poster, which features a Tsukiji tuna bidder as part of a line-up of stereotyped characters (including a geisha, sumo wrestler and maid cafe girl).

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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They do promote it, that doesn't mean though that people who work there endorse it neither that it is a safe environment for kids.

It is really busy and people push through with their small powered vehicles and scooters and even though they seem to be able to stop on a dime i amnreally surprised that nothing happened yet.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The tuna auction is open to the public again, but with new rules:

Important Notice

New rules for visiting Tsukiji Market are in effect as of May 10, 2010:

The number of visitors to the tuna auction is restricted to 140 per day.

Visitors are prohibited from entering the market's wholesale area before 9am.

Please read the following page for more details.

Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market is a large market for fish, fruits and vegetables in central Tokyo. It is the most famous of over ten wholesale markets that handle the distribution of fish, meat, produce and flowers in metropolitan Tokyo. Tsukiji Market is best known as one of the world's largest fish markets, handling over 2,000 tons of marine products per day.

The sight of the many kinds of fresh fish and other seafood and the busy atmosphere of scooters, trucks, sellers and buyers hurrying around, make Tsukiji Market a major tourist attractions. In fact, the numbers of visitors have increased so much over recent years, that they have become a problem to the course of business, as the aging market's infrastructure was not anticipated to serve as a tourist spot.

from here

I would say that Tsukiji Market (and any other market for that matter) is first and foremost a sacred worplace for those who work there and I hope that every visitor understands that.

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About the scallop you mentioned in your site:

They are actually tairagai or tairagi, not hotate (scalop).

Photos of tairagai can be found here.

Thanks for the info... something new for me. So the shape of the shells look very different but inside look very similar? I will update my website and make reference to your site. Thanks again

Fine Dining Explorer

www.finediningexplorer.com

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Hiroyuki, I have two well-behaved kids (5 and 12), and I visited Tsukiji on my own a decade ago so I have some sense of the challenge of balancing the chaos with a need for respect for the work and seafood. However, I'm unsure as to whether the very presence of four tourists, whatever their behavior, would be considered rude, inappropriate, or what. Do you have advice for someone in my situation? The rest of my family can die without seeing the place, and I'd just as soon avoid it if we're likely to be a bother.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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FDE: I don't think I have ever had tairagai (maybe I have as a topping for nigiri without knowing it), so I did some googling to find an answer to your question.

Different people talk differently about the difference between the two. One person says that once you know the flavor of tairagai, you will never want to have hotate again. Some say that tairagai is sweeter, tougher, and more flavorful than hotate. Others say that tairagai has a lighter flavor than hotate. So, I think that you have to make a carefull comparison between the best tairagai and the best hotate to get a right answer.

Chris Amirault:

Advice not only for someone in your situation but also for anybody:

From the site linked to above:

(Notes *1 through *4 are by me.)

Visiting the tuna auction

The number of visitors to the tuna auction is limited to 140 per day, the maximum number which the market's infrastructure can accommodate. Tourists, who wish to see the auction,*1 have to apply at the Osakana Fukyu Center (Fish Information Center) at the Kachidoki Gate, starting from 4:30am on a first-come, first-serve basis*2. A first group of 70 visitors will be admitted to the auction between 5:00 and 5:40, while a second group of 70 visitors will be admitted between 5:40 and 6:15.

*1 Why commas?

*2 This means that you will have to get up very early in the morning to be admitted.

Expect that the maximum number of visitors is likely to be exceeded on busy days, and that some later arriving visitors may not be able to see the auction. Successful applicants will be able to view the auction from a designated visitor area. It is not allowed to view the auction from anywhere else or to use flash photography or to interfere with the business action in any other way.

(Omitted)

A few more general rules for visiting Tsukiji Market

Since Tsukiji Market is a site where serious business is conducted, it is important for visitors not to interfere with the action by adhering to the following additional rules:

Do not enter areas restricted to authorized personnel!

Do not obstruct traffic!

Do not bring large bags or suitcases into the market!

Do not enter the market in high heeled shoes or sandals!

Do not bring small children*2 or pets!

Do not smoke in the market!

Do not touch*3 anything!

*2 Minimum age not specified.

*3 And, do not kiss the tuna!

I hope you will have a wonderful trip to Japan some day with your children!

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According to this news story, there was no major confusion although there were some people who attempted to visit (the auction site) without permission, and about 15 tourists were refused entry on the first day.

You can view some photos of the auction site from this link.

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I should have provided a link to an English-language news story.

Here is a copy:

The tuna auction viewing area at Tokyo's Tsukiji Market reopened to visitors on Monday after being suspended for about a month.

The tuna auction site had been closed to the public since early April, as a result of market workers' complaints that they couldn't perform their work properly due to a surge in the number of foreign sightseers. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has limited the number of daily visitors to the auction site to 140, on a first come, first served basis.

Registrations began at 4:30 a.m. on the same day at the Osakana Fukyu Center office near the fish market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward. About a dozen people could not take part in the tour due to the limit on the number of participants, but there was no major confusion.

Participants were divided into two groups of 70 people each, and entered the tuna wholesale area wearing yellow vests and observed the auctions.

A 26-year-old visitor from the U.S. expressed an understanding for the registration system, saying it is reasonable considering the fact that too many visitors in the viewing area could make it difficult for them to enjoy the experience comfortably. While another American participant aged 56 said that he is against the system which keeps people away from the unique experience and that the market should secure a larger space for sightseers.

The vice chairman of the tuna wholesalers association at the Tsukiji Market said, "To tell the truth, I don't want any tourists to enter the auction site due to safety concerns."

Click here for the original Japanese story

(Mainichi Japan) May 11, 2010

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