Tsukiji fish market - Tokyo Fish Market - The Tsukiji fish market is the biggest seafood market in the world. The Tsukiji fish market is very popular with tourists.

Commonly known as Tsukiji fish market (Japanese: 築地市場, Tsukiji shijō), but officially is named Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. Tsukiji fish market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind.

The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo, and is a major attraction for foreign visitors (few Japanese casually visit the market), especially for visitors with jet lag who have arrived from Narita International Airport; the best times to visit are between 5:00AM and 9:00AM. Tourists may visit the market daily between 5 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. and watch the proceedings from a designated area. However, due to the increase in numbers of sightseers and the associated problems they cause, the Tsukiji fish market decided to ban tourist access to the tuna auctions during the period between 15 December 2008 and 17 January 2009. This ban has now been lifted, but access is now much more restricted.

Tsukiji Fish Market
One of shops in the outer Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market - Location

The Tsukiji fish market is located near the Tsukiji Shijou Station on the Oedo subway line and Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya subway line. There are two distinct sections of the market as a whole. The "inner market" (jonai shijo) is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls. The "outer market" (jogai shijo) is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood, and many restaurants, especially sushi restaurants. Most of the shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon, and in the inner market even earlier.

Tsukiji Fish Market - Economics

The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood from tiny sardines to 300kg tuna, from cheap seaweed to the most expensive caviar. Overall, more than 700,000 metric tons of seafood are handled every year at the three seafood markets in Tokyo, with a total value in excess of 600 billion yen (approximately 6 billion US dollars). Tsukiji alone handles over 2000 metric tons of seafood per day. The number of registered employees varies from 60,000 to 65,000, including wholesalers, accountants, auctioneers, company officials, and distributors.

Tsukiji Fish Market - Operations

The market opens every morning except Sundays and holidays at 3:00 AM with the arrival of the products by ship, truck and plane from all over the world. Particularly impressive is the unloading of tons of frozen tuna. The auction houses (wholesalers known in Japanese as oroshi gyousha) then estimate the value and prepare the incoming products for the auctions. The buyers (licensed to participate in the auctions) also inspect the fish to estimate which fish they would like to bid for and at which price.

The auctions start around 5:00 AM. As of May 9, 2005, tourists are no longer allowed to visit the auctions unless they obtain a special permit beforehand. The remainder of the market can be visited. Bidding can only be done by licensed participants. These bidders include intermediate wholesalers [nakaoroshi gyousha] who operate stalls within the marketplace, and other licensed buyers who are agents for restaurants, food processing companies, and large retailers.

The auctions usually end around 7:00AM. Afterwards, the purchased fish is either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next destination, or on small carts and moved to the many shops located inside of the market. There the shop owners cut and prepare the products for retail. In case of large fish, example tuna and swordfish, cutting and preparation is elaborate. Frozen tuna and swordfish are often cut with large band saws, and fresh tuna is carved with extremely long knives (some well over a meter in length) called Oroshi hocho, maguro-bocho, or Hancho hocho.

The market is most busy between 8:00 and 10:AM, and the activity declines significantly afterwards. Many shops start to close around 11:00AM, and the market closes for cleaning around 1:00PM.

Inspectors from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government supervise activities in the market to enforce the Food Hygiene Law.

Tsukiji Fish Market - History

The first market in Tokyo was established by Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Edo period to provide food for Edo castle (nowadays Tokyo). Tokugawa Ieyasu invited fishermen from Tsukudajima, Osaka to Edo in order to provide fish for the castle. Fish not bought by the castle was sold near the Nihonbashi bridge, at a market called uogashi (literally, "fish quay") which was one of many specialized wholesale markets that lined the canals of Edo (as Tokyo was known until the 1870s).

In August 1918, following the so-called "Rice Riots" (Kome Soudai) which broke out in over one hundred cities and towns in protest against food shortages and the speculative practices of wholesalers), the Japanese government was forced to create new institutions for the distribution of foodstuffs, especially in urban areas. A Central Wholesale Market Law was established in March 1923. The Great Kantō earthquake on September 1, 1923, devastated much of central Tokyo, including the Nihonbashi fish market. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the market was relocated to the Tsukiji district, and after the construction of a modern market facility was completed in 1935, the fish market began operations under the provisions of the 1923 Central Wholesale Market Law. Three major markets in Tsukiji, Kanda and Koto began operating in 1935. Smaller branch markets were established in Ebara, Toshima, and Adachi, and elsewhere. At present, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's system of wholesale markets includes more than a dozen major and branch markets, handling seafood, produce, meat, and cut flowers.

(Article based on Wikipedia article and used under the GNU Free Documentation License)

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