Tsukiji Fish Market consists of an outer market and an inner market. In the outer market visitors can purchase vegetables, seafood, and goods. The inner market holds the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world.
The Outer Market
- Japanese omelettes are hard to find anywhere else in Tokyo. At Yamacho, an assembly line of chefs create slightly sweet, fluffy, layered bricks of eggs. The square pans of eggs are rolled along from chef to chef. When an omelette reaches the end of the line, the last chef removes it from the pan using chopsticks, places it on a cooling rack, and sets the pan on an above conveyor belt sending it back to the first chef.
- There are displays of enormous fish heads on ice. Vendors will display the head of their largest catch of the day outside their shops or stands for bragging rights.
- Sake is traditionally drank from a small, wooden box. The box is held with both hands and sipped from the corner. Kanpai!
- The seafood is enormous. The fish, crabs, scallops, and oysters are the largest we have ever seen.
- Dried bonito is the world’s hardest food in the Guinness Book of World Records. The bonito fish is dried and shaved into paper thin slices for purchase. Although thin, the bonito still requires a lot of chewing.
- Many stands have samples, just ask. After sampling a fish ball, Mitch is presented with a toothpick of raw cuttlefish.
- There is an air conditioned section in the outer market, and it’s a great escape from the summer heat. There is also an outdoor eating area upstairs with tables.
The Inner Market
- The morning action is off limit to tourists. Only licensed buyers and a small number of pre-scheduled visitors, required to arrive as early as 2:00am, are permitted to attend the morning auctions. Each morning fishermen gather at the inner market to unload their daily catch and prepare for sale.
- Guides are not allowed in the inner market. Outside of the market, visitors are handed a map by their guide to the inner market. But, a guide removed of his badge attending the market as a knowledgeable tourist is permitted. Photos and videos are also prohibited in the inner market.
- There are very few women in the inner market. Occasionally, a wife or other female relative can be spotted among the male fishermen working a cash register or completing paperwork from the morning sales.
- The inner market doesn’t smell fishy. Stainless steel work stations and floors are constantly hosed down by crews with ocean water, eliminating the smell of fish from the market.
- There are snowman shaped watermelons for sale. We also spot a $71 mango available for purchase. The vegetable section of the inner market is much quieter, filled with stacks of boxes containing vegetables and fruits ready for shipment. Crates overflow with peaches, grapes, onions, bok choy, apples, and egg plants in pristine condition. Admiring the perfectly ripe fruit and vegetables earns us a free pear sample.
- Many sushi restaurants don’t have seats. Diners stand at a long wrap around bar for a view of the sushi chefs preparing orders. We are served scalding hot green tea to accompany our sushi that is still too hot for us to drink when our meal is finished.
- Vegetarian sushi is available. My favorite piece of vegetarian sushi is a Japanese omelette and rice wrapped in a thin band of seaweed. Other vegetarian options included bean paste and algae.
- Sweet red and black beans are commonly used for pastry and dessert fillings.
- Be sure to experience traditional tea while in Japan. Each motion preparing the tea is executed with extreme detail and precision.