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Tsukiji Fish Market Pictures


jogoode
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I took my first trip to Japan in August, and spent four days of my 18-day trip in Tokyo. A visit to Tsukiji was, of course, at the top of my list of things to do. My friend and I woke up at 3:00 am on Sunday morning. The people at the desk of my hotel, who we had asked about Tsukiji the night before, didn't mention it was closed on Sundays; our taxi driver happily dropped us off at an empty market. Being a good sport, my friend agreed to go again the next day. This time, we made sure it was open.

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I'm not sure why, but I had imagined Tsukiji would be hundreds of kempt stalls with fish spread out on ice.

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Instead, I spent a lot of my time there dodging carts

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and avoiding stacks of boxes.

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I strolled through the market, wishing I were with someone who was knowledgeable about Japanese seafood, who could tell me from what waters these shrimp came;

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how to choose the finest mirugai (geoduck);

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and how to identify the many aquatic oddities. (Anyone know what these are?)

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I was happy we had woken early to watch vendors prepare their stalls, lay out their wares and disassemble their fish.

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We explored every corner of the vast market, and stumbled into a room of flash frozen tunas.

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Men with axes tried to chase us out. But they gave up easily, and we watched them hack at the fish.

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Frozen whole tunas are broken down into blocks, which look like chunks of exotic wood.

After we had seen our fill, we walked to Daiwa, said to be the best of the Tsukiji sushi stalls. It opens at 5:30 a.m. Customers are either hungry market workers eating breakfast, or young men having a snack after a night of heavy drinking. It was easily one of the best days of the trip, and it happened before 7 a.m.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Amazing! Thanks, Hiroyuki!

From my Japanese food dictionary (by Richard Hosking):

Somewhat limited in appeal, these creatures are present in all the waters surrounding Japan, but are particulary prolific in the coastal areas of Sanriku and north of Akita.

It goes on to say that they're best in July and August. I should have bought the box! They are skinned and eaten raw. Their intestines are often served as sunomono.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Oooh... Ahhh... Wow.... :wub:

I'd like to go to a Tsukiji (fish market??) when i travel to Tokyo again... do you always have to get there early?? :huh: Im such a lazy bone... :raz: ... and do they sell by the kilo?? Do they package it nicely for you?? Tell us more! Tell us more!

Kristin, you could probably take me, when i come in Febuary... that's IF my family decides to go to Tokyo again... :smile:

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Oooh... Ahhh... Wow.... :wub:

I'd like to go to a Tsukiji (fish market??) when i travel to Tokyo again... do you always have to get there early?? :huh: Im such a lazy bone... :raz: ... and do they sell by the kilo?? Do they package it nicely for you?? Tell us more! Tell us more!

As I understand it, there are two main parts to the Tsukiji fish market (it has some odd official name, but I can't rememer what it is off hand) the private fish area and the market section.

The fish auction and the other private stuff happen really, really early, like, before the train system starts running. I don't remember when, exactly, but it probably ends around 6:00 or so? I'll have to go borrow a friend's Japan guidebook to check. This is where jogoode's pictures come from. This includes the big fish sales, the fresh tuna auction, and the bulk purchases of seafood by redistrubutors.

Though this area is nominally off-limits to the public, from everything I've heard, they don't really enforce this rule. I haven't yet gotten around to going early in the morning .

The second area is a public market place, with a bunch of different shops selling all kinds of food-related items. Besides sea-food, there are a bunch of shops selling other stuff, including: other food-stuffs, imported items, knives, cooking utensils, plates/other dishware, and dried foods (seaweed, squid, fruit, etc.). This area gets started early in the morning and, when I went, seemed to start shutting down around lunch (but that may just have been a few stores, I'm not sure).

In and around the market are a variety of prepared-food sellers as well. Of course there are the sushi shops (of which Daiwa is the most famous). There are also some places that specialize in various types of seafood donburi -- sushi-type seafood over rice in a bowl.

I also remember a few small stalls where they were grilling fresh seafood. And there seem to be more rolled egg shops in Tsukiji (some of them constantly cooking fresh eggs to satisfy all of the demand, and it's really good when it's fresh and hot) than anywhere else I've been in Tokyo.

I've only been there once. I typically go to Ameyayokocho market in Ueno, as it's significantly closer to me.

-------

Alex Parker

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Thanks for that Alex!!

So basically, the auction part is for people who are buying in bulk? What about exclusive fish... like the Fugu for example... do they sell it there?.. Actually, do people in Japan actually eat this?

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Thanks for that Alex!!

So basically, the auction part is for people who are buying in bulk? What about exclusive fish... like the Fugu for example... do they sell it there?.. Actually, do people in Japan actually eat this?

It seemed as though most of the fish sold by vendors in the main market was only available to buy in bulk. For example, I wanted to buy some uni, so I picked up a tray from a box containing about 15 other trays. Turned out that I could only buy the whole box. But I'm sure this doesn't apply to every item in the market. Outside of the main area, I found some beautiful wasabi available in small amounts.

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I was searching for the famous tuna auction when I came upon the room filled with giant frozen tuna. I think these tuna were being prepared for auction, but I never saw scenes like these. There have been many articles written about the intracacies of buying tuna at auction, about the codes and gestures that vendors and buyers use to negotiate. I'm almost positive it isn't open to the public.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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jogoode, did you have sushi breakfast afterwards?

I went several times when I used to live outside of Tokyo and there was one sushi place in particular that we'd find after the market. It was amazing.... and now I can't remember what it was called and have no idea how I'm going to find it again when I go in March...

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  • 2 years later...

Hi All,

I'd like to share with you some of the pictures my husband and I took during our visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market, in 25th September 2006. We arrived there at 7h30 in the morning, spent 2 hours looking around and we did our best not to get run over. We finished our visit with an amazing sushi breakfast at Daiwa Sushi Bar.

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:smile:

Marcia

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A Tsukiji Fish Market and Restaurant is supposed to open in Ala Moana Shopping Center, Hawaii's largest shopping center.

From their website:

TSUKIJI FISH MARKET AND RESTAURANT (End of 2006) will be a fusion of the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and a freshly prepared seafood buffet restaurant. The restaurant will also feature a sushi bar, a yakitori bar and open air seating.

That opening date has changed many times so I wonder if it will actully open at the end of 2006.

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You seem to have made a wonderful trip. I have just finished browsing through your blog although I don't understand your native language. It's full of wonderful pictures! You and your husband are great photographers. Thanks for sharing all of these photos here.

By the way, I'm curious about the sembei you mentioned in another thread. Did you get them?

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You seem to have made a wonderful trip.  I have just finished browsing through your blog although I don't understand your native language.  It's full of wonderful pictures!  You and your husband are great photographers.  Thanks for sharing all of these photos here.

By the way, I'm curious about the sembei you mentioned in another thread.  Did you get them?

Hi Hiroyuki, thank you for your compliments. Thanks for checking my website too, feel free to visit it anytime! Yes, we did have a great time in Japan, we fell in love with the country and with the japanese people. It was only one week in Japan and the days passed so fast... At the end I didn't have time to look for the ginger sembei as I planned but we tried a fresh made shoyu sembei in Kyoto, oh it was so nice...

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I have some pictures from a trip a few years ago here: http://sotobori.com/tsukiji/index.htm where you can see extensive shots of the auction halls and auctions (now closed to the public).

Hi All,

I'd like to share with you some of the pictures my husband and I took during our visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market, in 25th September 2006. We arrived there at 7h30 in the morning, spent 2 hours looking around and we did our best not to get run over. We finished our visit with an amazing sushi breakfast at Daiwa Sushi Bar.

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Excellent photos, Marcia. Thanks for taking the time to post them. I am curious about what was harvested from these heads. Do you or does anyone else know?

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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looks like they were shaved? maybe for bonito?  who knows...

The one to the right appears to have a large whole in the skull. Is the brain used for anything in particular?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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A Tsukiji Fish Market and Restaurant is supposed to open in Ala Moana Shopping Center, Hawaii's largest shopping center.

From their website:

TSUKIJI FISH MARKET AND RESTAURANT (End of 2006) will be a fusion of the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and a freshly prepared seafood buffet restaurant. The restaurant will also feature a sushi bar, a yakitori bar and open air seating.

That opening date has changed many times so I wonder if it will actully open at the end of 2006.

To me, this sounds like it'll emphasize the restaurant... I can't see other restaurateurs flocking to Ala Moana Center at 5 am for a fish auction! (Or consumers making a special trip there to buy retail.)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Excellent photos, Marcia. Thanks for taking the time to post them. I am curious about what was harvested from these heads. Do you or does anyone else know?

Hi John, thanks. I do not know if something was harvest from those heads but when we were there we saw some buyers having a look at the flesh from those cuts. I don't know if it's possible to see in the picture but the fish cheeks were cut too so the customers could inspect.

Here's another picture where we can see the proportion and the size of the heads better:

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And another close-up:

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Marcia

Edited by Marcia (log)
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looks like they were shaved? maybe for bonito?   who knows...

The one to the right appears to have a large whole in the skull. Is the brain used for anything in particular?

There is a specific way of preparing a tuna when captured called the 'Tanaguchi' method.

The tuna when captured, will get a club to the head to shock it and then a spike is inserted into the soft spot to stop it from thrashing and bruising the flesh.

Once that is done, the head is split open for pithing, insetion of a thick string like mono filament which will destroy the brain and the spinal cord to stop the biochemical reactions which may contribute to deterioration of the flesh.

The fish is then bled, gilled and gutted in a specific manner and flash frozen.

All these things are done to keep the flesh in its most prestine condition so that it retains a high market value.

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